Royal Thai Army should focus on more urgent matters than Lazada scandal, an opposition leader says

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The Royal Thai Army has been in the headline for the past week after it moved to ban e-commerce giant Lazada from delivering to all bases throughout the country. The widely publicized move came after Lazada posted advertising content that was deemed to be inappropriate by Thai conservative royalists who say the ad defamed members of the royal family.

The army and the current army chief, Narongpan Jitkaewthae, said the army would no longer do any business with or let Lazada deliver to army bases.

One member of the opposition, however, said that the army’s priorities were misplaced and that it should concentrate on real concerns over the abuse of human rights in the barracks than a political scandal.

“The army should pay more attention to the death of Abdulloh Esormusor who died while in the custody of state officers,” Rangsiman Rome, the spokesman of the Move Forward Party told Thai Enquirer by phone.

Rangsiman said it would be more beneficial for the society if the army and state agencies concentrate more on finding justice for Abdulloh than on banning or prosecuting Lazada for a video.

He pointed out that the army and the government should look to enforce the long awaited anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill that just passed its third reading in parliament in February to help with the reinvestigation into Abdulloh’s death.

Abdulloh was a Muslim man who died in August 2019 in Pattani after he went into a coma following an interrogation session by soldiers.    

He was apprehended from his house and detained without charges and interrogated by soldiers at the Ingkayutthaboriharn military camp before he was found unconscious on the floor of his holding cell.

The Pattani General Hospital said Abdulloh went into a coma from severe brain swelling, which could have been caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Following an uproar by human rights groups, religious leaders and politicians, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 started an investigation into the case.

Following the military investigation, the Songkhla Provincial Court ruled on Monday that there is not enough evidence to prosecute any state officers for Abdulloh’s death and the cause for the oxygen deprivation is still unknown.

One of the reasons why no one knows how he died was because ISOC Region 4 said all security cameras installed at the detention facility inside the military camp were offline at the time of his death.

“The result of the investigation into Abdulloh’s death made the negotiation for peace in the southern border harder and it will affect millions of people who have already been living in conflict for decades,” Rome said.

A long-running, separatist insurgency has killed thousands in the Muslim-majority, three southernmost provinces of Thailand since 2006.

“The tragedy that we are seeing from the ruling now is that Abdulloh died for nothing but at the same time the army and the government are giving more importance on Lazada, there is no real effort to fix human rights abuses here,” he said.

He said it is the government’s duty to make sure that people are safe while in detention.

“Solving these cases would lead to a discussion and possible changes that could help ease the conflict in the south,” Rome said.  

Lazada investigation

The Technology Crime Suppression Division said on Sunday that they have accepted a lese-majeste complaint made by activist Srisuwan Janya against Aniwat “Nara Crape Katoey” Pathumthin, an online influencer who came up with the idea for the video, Intersect, the advertisement company that produced the video, and Lazada which funded the video.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said on Tuesday that the video was “unacceptable”.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said on Monday and then again Wednesday that all parties found to have broken the law will be prosecuted according to the law.

They also said they will ask a court to rule whether Lazada’s platforms should be shut down because of the incident or not.   

“The Thai society has a different context and values than other countries and I want everyone who is coming to do business in Thailand to understand this point,” Digital Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said on Wednesday while referring to the filing of the petition.

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