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UA 83/91 - Thailand: prisoners of conscience: Dr. Bowornsak Uwanno, Gen. (retired) Chatichai Choonhavan, Gen. (retired) Arthit Kamlang-ek, ex- Senator Phithak Intharawithayaanan, Anan Anantakuun, Yongyut Saarasombat

, N° d'index: ASA 39/004/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 39/04/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 83/91 Prisoners of Conscience 5 March 1991
THAILAND: Dr Bowornsak Uwanno
Gen (retired) Chatichai Choonhavan
Gen (retired) Arthit Kamlang-ek
ex-Senator Phithak Intharawithayaanan
Anan Anantakuun
Yongyut Saarasombat
Amnesty International is concerned that Dr Bowornsak Uwanno, a university
professor and lawyer, who was detained during a military coup d'etat in Thailand
on 23 February 1991, continues to be held without charge or trial solely for
his non-violent political activities and beliefs. An expert on the Thai legal
system, Dr Bowornsak was an adviser to General (retired) Chatichai Choonhavan,
who was deposed as prime minister during the coup. He was seized by air force
security personnel who arrested the prime minister and others on a plane that
was taking them to see Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. According to some
reports, the military feared that Dr Bowornsak might be carrying the draft
decree to be presented to the King proposing the dismissal of General Sunthorn
Khongsomphong, Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed forces. General
Sunthorn is the head of the National Peace-keeping Council (NPKC), which carried
out the coup d'etat. In addition to detaining Dr Bowornsak, the NPKC has named
him as one of nine people who is not allowed to leave Thailand. Observers
believe that one of the reasons for Dr Bowornsak's continued detention is that
he might help those opposed to the coup d'etat to challenge its legality.
Amnesty International urges that he be released immediately and
Amnesty International is also concerned that the deposed prime minister
Chatichai Choonhavan and four other political figures who were members of his
cabinet and advisers or had been appointed to high civil service posts by him,
are also detained without charge or trial. The organization believes at least
some of them were originally detained simply because of their political
positions at the time of the coup d'etat, and are now held because the NPKC
fears they might be able to mobilize non-violent opposition to the coup d'etat
in Thailand and internationally. In addition to Chatichai, they include
General (retired) Arthit Kamlang-ek, who was Deputy Minister of Defence; Phithak
Intharawithayaanan, reportedly a personal friend and financial adviser to
Chatichai and a member of the Senate, which was abolished in the coup d'etat;
Anan Anantakuun, who was promoted to Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of
Interior under the deposed government; and Police Major (retired) Yongyut
Saarasombat, who was General-Secretary of the cabinet.
Immediately after the coup d'etat NPKC leaders said they would release
Chatichai in a few days, as soon as there was "a very calm situation, a very
quiet situation", and that the deposed prime minister would not be tried because
he had committed no crime. However, after peaceful student demonstrations
on 25 February protesting the coup d'etat, NPKC leaders indicated he would
might be held for six months or more, and military sources reportedly said
he was being kept in custody to ensure that he did not "interfere" in the
post-coup d'etat political process. The NPKC is now reportedly suggesting
that Chatichai and some of the others still held may have been directly involved
in official corruption, which they allege was rampant in his administration.
However, independent observers are reportedly sceptical that the former prime
minister and the other people named here were themselves involved in corruption
or other recognizably criminal acts.
While not in a position to evaluate allegations of corruption within
the former prime minister's administration, Amnesty International urges that
unless Chatichai Choonhavan, Arthit Kamlang-ek and Phithak Intharawithayaanan,
Anan Anantakuun and Yongyut Saarasombat are going to be promptly charged in
an independent and impartial court of law with recognizably criminal offences
and tried according to the full safeguards provided under international
standards for a fair trial, they should be immediately released.
On 23 February 1991 Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, General
Sunthorn Khongsomphong, announced the overthrow of the government of Prime
Minister General (retired) Chatichai Choonhavan, the abolition of the
constitution and parliament, the imposition of martial law, a ban on political
gatherings of more than five people, and a ban on activities by political
parties. The Supreme Commander heads the NPKC, which also includes the
commanders of the army, air force and navy. Prime Minister Chatichai was
the head of the Chaat Thai (Thai Nation) Party, which won the largest number
of seats in the last general election in 1988. He became Thailand's first
elected prime minister since 1976. As prime minister, he had increasingly
tense relations with senior military and police officers, and was seen as
challenging their influence over the country's political life. In overthrowing
the government, the NPKC accused it of corruption. It has now promulgated
an interim constitution and appointed an interim civilian prime minister, but
martial law and suspensions of civil liberties remain in force.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail letters:
- expressing concern that Dr Bowornsak Uwanno is still detained without charge
or trial for his non-violent political beliefs and activities; and urging that
he be immediately and unconditionally released;
- expressing concern that former Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, former
Deputy Defense Minister Arthit Kamlang-ek, and former Senator Phithak
Intharawithayaanan, Anan Anantakuun and Yongyut Saarasombat are still detained
without charge or trial, and that this may be simply in order to prevent them
from peacefully exercising the internationally-recognized rights of freedom
of expression, opinion and assembly;
- urging that unless they are to be promptly charged in an indepedent and
impartial court of law with a recognizably criminal offence and fairly tried,
they be released.
Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun
Government House
Nakhorn Pathom Road
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Telegrams: Interim Prime Minister Panyarachun, Bangkok,
Telexes: 87491 INFODEP TH (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Faxes: + 66 2 224 7095 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
General Sunthorn Khongsomphong
ACM Kaset Rotchanannin
National Peacekeeping Command
Suan Runreudii
Bangkok 10310, Thailand
Telexes: 87491 INFODEP TH (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Faxes: + 66 2 241 1714; + 66 2 241 5720
Thai Nation Party
325/74-6 Luukluang Road
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
and to diplomatic representatives of Thailand in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 16 April 1991.

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