Prime Minister Abhisit is right when he said there is no secret CIA detention centre for suspected terrorists under his government. Whether such a facility existed in 2002 when Thaksin Shinawatra was in power, as a newspaper report claims, is another question.
When Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Tuesday that there is no secret prison in Thailand operated by the American CIA where suspected terrorists are interrogated and tortured, he can be trusted as speaking the truth.
The Democrat-led government under his leadership would never allow this to happen, even though Thailand and the United States have been close allies for decades and have both condemned terrorism.
Some people, however, have suspicions about the timing of the article in the Washington Post newspaper on July 19, headlined “Internal Rifts on Road to Torment” – which coincided with the start of the Asean foreign ministers meeting and related meetings with the regional group’s dialogue partners in Phuket this week. They feel it might be less a coincidence and more a bid to discredit the Abhisit government.
The Washington Post story suggests that the CIA operated a secret detention centre in Thailand back in 2002 and interrogated a terrorism suspect known as Abu Zubaida. He was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 and later flown to Thailand for treatment for his injuries at a Bangkok hospital which was not identified. He was eventually taken to a secret detention centre for interrogation to get him to talk, during which he suffered a variety of tortures including waterboarding, according to the report.
Was the timing of the story intentional, a bid to embarrass the Abhisit government as suggested by some Thai critics? A thorough read through the article in question indicates that most of the information it was based on probably came from the Senate intelligence committee which is currently examining the CIA’s interrogation programme. The committee is focusing in part on two former CIA contractors, James E. Mitchell, a retired clinical psychologist for the US Air Force, and John Jessen, who helped design and oversee Abu Zubaida’s interrogation.
But any suggestion of foul play by the American newspaper to discredit the Democrat-led government may be premature and an overreaction. Also, nowhere in the article suggested that such a secret detention centre still exists.
But whether it did once exist is another, disturbing, question, which Mr Abhisit himself did not have an answer. Most Thais were totally unaware of the alleged existence of such a notorious facility on Thai soil until it was reported by the US media.
The people who might be able to shed light on this dirty affair are former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who led the goverment in 2002, and the military top brass of the time.
As Prime Minister Abhisit said earlier, this is an old story which came to light only recently. Like most cloak-and-dagger affairs, thickly shrouded in secrecy. It takes years before the truth is exposed to the public.
And by then, all the key players in the dirty trade are already out of the business and enjoying a comfortable life.
Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Bangkok Post / Published: 21/07/2009
Secret jail report ‘discredits country’
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday denied a Washington Post news report that there was a secret US prison for international terrorists in Thailand.
Asean Affairs Department director Vitavas Srivihok said the Department of Information will look into the source of the report and release the facts to the public.
“The report may be aimed at discrediting Thailand, as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean),” Mr Vitavas said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya’s secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut also insisted there was no secret prison in Thailand. The Thai government had never let the United States build a torture facility in the country.
“Mr Kasit said even though the report was groundless, this issue must be clear as it is discrediting the country,” Mr Chavanond said.
According to the Washington Post report, the secret CIA facility was used to interrogate and torture terrorist suspect Abu Zubaida in 2002 after he was captured in Pakistan
Bangkok Post/ Published: 21/07/2009
PM denies secret prison allegations
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted on Tuesday morning that there was no secret prison for torturing terrorists in Thailand as reported by The Washington Post newspaper.
Mr Abhisit said there was no cooperation between the Thai government and the US in setting up a secret prison as alleged.
“It’s an old story and it is totally groundless as this government has never resorted to the use of violent means,” Mr Abhisit said. The report would not affect the summit between Asean and its dialog partners being held in Phuket.
The report in Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post about CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists in 2002 mentions secret prisons in Thailand.
The prime minister said the report would have no impact on his scheduled meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Government House at 5pm on Tuesday.
Clinton is stopping in Bangkok on her way to a regional security forum in Phuket, where she was scheduled to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-East Asia. The signing of the treaty would make the US one of the last allies of the Asean nations to do so.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban also dismissed the allegation about the secret prison, saying that the report was groundless.
Mr Suthep said it was suspicious that the report surfaced during the Asean meeting in Phuket.
No torture allowed in Thailand: govt
The Democrat Party yesterday said its government would never allow the torture of terrorist suspects on Thai soil, following a Washington Post report saying in 2002 American authorities had subjected an alleged al-Qaeda man to abuse in Thailand.
“We are investigating the Washington Post report, but can guarantee that this government will never engage in such a violation of human rights,” said Democrat spokesman Buranat Samuttarak.
The report provided details about Abu Zubaida being arrested in Pakistan and then flown to Bangkok while top US counter-terrorism officials gathered at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to discuss how they could get the suspect to talk.
US authorities are not legally allowed to torture suspects in their own country.
The Washington Post said the torture methods discussed included putting Zubaida in a cell filled with corpses, surrounding him with naked women or jolting him with electric shocks to the teeth.
It is believed that Zubaida was finally subjected to “waterboarding”, under which victims are made to constantly feel like they are drowning.
“Interviews with nearly two dozen current and former US officials also provide new evidence that the imposition of harsh techniques provoked dissension among the officials charged with questioning Abu Zubaida, from the time of his capture through the period when the most gruelling torments were applied,” the Washington Post said.
Army chief Anupong Paochinda denied an earlier Washington Post report that there was indeed a “torture chamber” in Thailand that US officials could use to get terrorists to yield key information.
According to the newspaper, rumours had circulated that a secret site for torture tactics in Thailand had been approved “downtown” – agency jargon for the White House. Apart from waterboarding, Zubaida was also subjected to forced nudity, sleep deprivation and temperatures lowered until he turned blue.
By The Nation
Published on July 21, 2009
PM Denies Existence of Secret US Jail in Thailand
Both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in charge of national security deny a Washington Post report on a secret US jail in Thailand. They say this is just an attempt to stir up a situation while the ASEAN meetings are taking place in Phuket and the US Secretary of State is in the country.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the issue of a secret US jail in Thailand has been floated about in several analytical pieces on the US’ role in Southeast Asia since 2001. He said The Washington Post’s report on the issue is intended to coincide with he ASEAN meetings and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Thailand.
Abhisit is confident the global community will understand the situation and reiterates that the Thai government places emphasis on human rights.
Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban also denied the report on a secret US jail on Thai soil. He said the Foreign Ministry must clarify this issue and the government may set up a committee to investigate if this is an attempt to damage Thailand’s reputation at this time when the country is hosting the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and ASEAN Regional Forum. Suthep is confident the report will not affect the ASEAN meetings in Phuket.
Secretary to the Foreign Minister, Chawanont Indarakomalsut , affirmed the report is old news and is not true. He said the ministry will ask The Washington Post about its source for the report and if it is determined that this is part of efforts to tarnish Thailand’s image, then relevant authorities must try to unmask the masterminds.
ASEAN Department Directorc General Withawas Sriwihok commented that the public should not believe the report until it is verified. He also noted the timing of the report coincides with the ASEAN meetings and added the meetings will not address this issue.
He also commented that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Thailand shows how the US is placing emphasis on Southeast Asia. Her talks with Thai leaders center on the development of natural and energy resources in the lower Mekong River Basin. She will also endorse a cooperation pact between the United States and ASEAN.
The contention that reports about the secret prison are coming out now to discredit the government are ridiculous. The recent reports are part of grand jury hearings in the U.S. that have been going on for some time concerning the destruction of tapes documenting the torture of detainees at the prison. The Thai government has been denying the existence of a prison since the Thaksin years.