Today, as Al Jazeera continues its daily broadcasts of “Thailand’s Tropical Gulag,” a documentary I co-produced with filmmaker Orlando de Guzman, I read two pieces of torture news. Please compare and contrast:
In Indonesia, a military tribunal found three soldiers guilty of torturing Papuans. Horrific footage of this abuse was filmed and posted on YouTube last year. This compelled the Indonesian military to act; so, probably, did the U.S., which recently re-established military links with Kopassus, the special forces notorious for human rights abuses. (Orlando and I witnessed the aftermath of a Kopassus massacre in 2003; watch Orlando’s powerful film on it here.)
For what they did to their victims—they held a burning stick to one man’s genitals, a knife to another’s face (right)—the Indonesian soldiers got off lightly: the tribunal gave them 8 to 10 months in jail. But the sentences still represent a grudging acknowledgment that torture exists in the Indonesian armed forces and that those who commit it should be held accountable.
Now look at Thailand—specifically, at an article in today’s Bangkok Post. “Nothing the military has done has violated the rights of local people,” says Udomchai Thammasarorat, commander of the Fourth Army in southern Thailand. This is the same Udomchai who told me and Orlando, “We confirm we have never committed torture”—even as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups continue to document its systematic use against the Malay-Muslim minority in southern Thailand.
Please watch “Thailand’s Tropical Gulag” and, if it moves you in any way, leave a comment below. I’m very interested to hear what you think.