By Taryn Wilson
Bangkok, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- Thailand’s military routinely subjects new conscripts to beatings, humiliation and sexual abuse that often amounts to torture, Amnesty International said Monday.
The “widespread” and “long-standing pattern of abuse” was detailed in a new report titled “We Were Just Toys to Them.”
“Recruits described how sergeants and trainers brutally beat them with sticks and the butts of guns, sexually abused them and forced them to exercise until they fainted,” Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s senior director for research, advocacy and policy, said in a statement.
“What our research shows is that such maltreatment is not the exception but the rule, and deliberately hushed within the military.”
Out of the 26 current and former conscripted soldiers interviewed by Amnesty, only two said they had not experienced or witnessed sexual abuse, or heard about it from victims.
“Interviewees described being forced by their commanders to masturbate and ejaculate in front of each other, and several described being sexually attacked or witnessing such attacks. Gay conscripts and those perceived to be gay described how they were routinely singled out for acts of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination,” the report said.
Three cases of rape, one case of attempted rape, one of simulated rape, and two other cases in which conscripts were coerced into providing “sexual favors” to commanders, which likely amounted to rape, were documented, Amnesty said. Most of the rape survivors self-identified as or were described as gay.
“These young conscripts are exposed to commanders who inflict sexual abuse, including rape and other forms of torture,” said Algar. “These are serious crimes under Thai and international law and those responsible should face justice.”
Conscripts also described punishments such as being kicked and beaten by commanders using their hands sticks, boots, helmets and the butts of guns, Amnesty said. Some were made to endure physical punishment such as exercise beyond their endurance, including being forced to stand in positions that led to fainting and injury.
“Three to four people would faint every day. They have a clinic where these people would be sent,” one told Amnesty, while another said: “People who usually fainted would be treated, then return, then have to exercise again and faint again.”
The military draft takes place at the beginning of April, although this year it has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Amnesty said.
Deputy Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal Chalermchai Srisaiyud said in a written response to the organization that the military follows a policy of “treating new conscripts as family members and friends,” but the organization said in light of the research, this was “hard to reconcile.”
The NGO called for urgent measures, including calling on the National Assembly of Thailand to establish an independent commission of inquiry.
“It’s equally important that conscripts and other soldiers are allowed to complain safely and confidentially to the National Human Rights Commission. The authorities must encourage a culture that respects everyone’s dignity, irrespective of seniority, rank, sexual orientation and gender identity,” Algar said. EFE-EPA