Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tulsie on Torture

Who to Blame for the Chamber of Shame?

Tulsathit Taptim

The Nation

We have all been led astray. Army chief Anupong Paochinda is not the person to grill about the alleged secret US "torture chamber" in Thailand, and neither is Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It doesn't matter whether or not we, a substandard nation with sub-standards on everything including human rights, let US interrogators put terrorist suspects through near-death (or so it seems) experiences here; the real issue is why the Americans allegedly did that on our soil instead of theirs.

Assuming there really is, or was, a secret "black site" prison somewhere in Thailand, the American motive was a simple case of complicated conscience. On the one hand, they badly needed information that could have saved hundreds, if not thousands, of their citizens' lives; on the other hand, they believed the methods necessary to get that information from stubborn, well-trained suspects had to be unethical, immoral or even illegal.

Having an interrogation dungeon in Thailand helped ease American guilt and shielded Washington from legal exposure. And they apparently went to great lengths in interpreting local and international laws and treaties in order to make sure that if the secret was to be uncovered, they would still have enough immunity to get away with it.


Abu Zubaydah was in the end tortured, allegedly in Thailand, through the infamous technique known as "waterboarding", which causes victims to feel like they are drowning. Information obtained from this "enhanced interrogation" was deemed by some American officials as being fruitful, with Bush even using the results to back his call for ratification of tough techniques applied in questioning terror suspects. A relatively happy ending for the Americans, and it didn't quite matter how many constitutional principles may have been violated here in Thailand and how Bangkok might be upgraded as a terrorist target.

Being a country with lower political, ethical and moral standards, we may have deserved that. It begs the question, though, which is more worrisome - Thai authorities killing drug suspects without trial and charging writers/thinkers with subversion, or American forces coming here and exploiting the lower standards to facilitate an act that would have been immoral and illegal where they came from.

Imagine a lese majeste suspect being abducted from his home, detained without trial and beaten to near death. The Kingdom would be torn to pieces, considering that the current Thai treatment of such suspects is already called "draconian" by some Western editorials.

I thought this was an interesting column.

I am not one of those deluded people who thinks that in the real world powerful countries, especially those at war, hot or cold, don't torture, even if they are signed parties to international laws and conventions outlawing torture or human rights abuses. There is a lot of evidence that the US was torturing enemies during the Cold War through intermediaries or 3rd countries. The Soviets certainly did it. The Chinese did it. The Cubans did it. The British and French were torturing away when they were trying to preserve their colonies. What's the deal with all the pretense?

America tortures. Thailand tortures. Hell, Thailand tortures domestic prisoners who are not even a threat to the state. Thailand's prison system is not exactly Club Med.

I think there was a secret prison in Thailand right after 9/11 that received terrorists and CIA agents probably tortured them.

I seriously doubt that Thais were actively involved in the actual torture in any way, shape or form except to give the CIA the green light to do what they wanted, as long as it was in secret and the Thai government didn't lose face.

After Dana Priest in the Washington Post broke the story about the secret prisons in Thailand and Eastern Europe, Thailand told the CIA to close the prison, and that was that.

In the context of Thai-US relations, I don't think the story is unusual. I have read many declassified memorandum from the US state department archives. This type of clandestine activity has been around for decades, going back to the early days of the Cold War.

Thailand has a long history of torturing and killing Communists; it has a long history of torturing and killing Islamic terrorists and separatists.

Why this secret prison should be a shocker to anyone I don't know.

General Anupong's non-denial denial was a joke.

Any journalist worth his salt could see through the facade. All foreign reports that I have read say that the prison was closed after the initial story broke, so, of course, the secret prison no longer exists now. Just do a Google search of Thailand, rendition, secret prisons, etc, and you will come up with good stuff.

Instead of going after General Anupong, who may or may not have been part of the loop back then, the Thai media should have gone after General Surayud or the head of Thailand's clandestine services, or other government officials who might have the authority to sign off on the CIA activity.

Of course, Tulsie will never investigate the pooyai or his precious generals who may actually be responsible for the secret prison, or investigate their crimes for other things--corruption, abuse of power, mafia dealings, dodgy procurement contracts-- as well. Doing real investigative journalism is beneath him. It is easier to blame the Americans for activities that are happening on Thai soil with Thai permission and do nothing.

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