Readers of Global Military Justice Reform have seen many posts about the improper use of military courts to try civilians in Thailand, but here is a story about hard-core military justice, i.e., the kind that is imposed on military personnel for service-connected misconduct. We reprint this letter to the editor in full:
Privates Songtham Mudmad and Chatpisut Chumphan were brutally tortured in camp. Songtham’s genitals were burnt with candles and he died of brain haemorrhage and severe bruising. [Bold type in original.]
Chatpisut alleged that an officer had stolen their money and, when challenged, the officer allegedly had his men torture his accusers in front of other conscripts. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon found six soldiers guilty of the killing and torture and sentenced them to detention - but has justice been served?
First, Sub-Lieutenant Patthanat Lertchaikul, the highest-ranking officer involved, was sentenced to just 30 days' detention, far less than the 45 days others were given. Yet higher ranks should be role models for lower ranks, since they should know better what's right and what's wrong. Did his higher rank entitle Patthanat to a lighter sentence?
Second, General Prawit said that the culprits would also face criminal lawsuits brought by the victims' relatives. Does that mean that, if the relatives are "persuaded" to not bring charges, the state will not prosecute them for murder? That's hardly justice, and instead condones the continuing violence against conscripts that has resulted in 22 high-profile deaths of conscripts and suspects detained in military barracks over the past eight years.
Military justice must not be a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron.Mistreatment of conscripted soldiers has been a military justice flashpoint in several countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan, in recent years.