BANGKOK (AFP) – Thai lawmakers yesterday gave initial approval to a law against torture and forced disappearances, after years of delay and criticism from rights groups.
Activists have long accused authorities of state-sanctioned abductions and torture, and the United Nations (UN) said there have been more than 80 disappearances since 1980.
The kingdom’s criminal code does not currently recognise the offences, but rogue state officials convicted under the new legislation will face long prison terms.
Yesterday, the draft law passed a first reading in parliament, though it is not clear when lawmakers will take it up again, or when it will finally come into effect.
“This is considered as an initial success after we waited for a year and a half for the draft bill,” opposition Move Forward Party Member of Parliament (MP) Rangsiman Rome told local media.
“Torture and disappearance cases have become an important issue, which the parliament has agreed to push forward.”
The legislation has been long in coming – the Cabinet approved the changes in 2016 and bills languished for years on the parliamentary agenda.
Nine Thai citizens have disappeared in neighbouring countries since a military coup in 2014, including two whose bodies were dumped in the Mekong River after they were abducted in Laos in 2018.
Last year prominent Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit was dragged off the street in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and has not been seen since.