Responsible Thai generals must be punished for torturing and killing of Imam

Responsible Thai generals must be punished

for torturing and killing of Imam

BANGKOK, Jan 11 – The death of an imam while in army custody last year will present Thailand’s new government with its first test of whether it can deliver justice in the country’s troubled southern provinces.


On Christmas Day, a court in Narathiwat ruled that 56-year-old imam Yapa Kaseng was tortured and killed while being interrogated by soldiers in March.

The body of the Muslim community leader bore evidence of blunt force trauma, including rib fractures. His lungs were punctured, and his body was covered with bruises, and had abrasions on the back.

The death of the imam has gone down as a landmark abuse case. Rarely has anyone been held accountable for deaths in custody a long-held complaint of locals as well as non-governmental organisations and watchdog groups like the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Cases like that of imam Yapa, and earlier excesses committed by the army, have fuelled a cycle of violence that has provoked angry young Muslims into joining the insurgency.

HRW, in a statement last Thursday, criticised Thailand’s “extensive and largely unchecked powers of the Executive Decree on Government Administration in Emergency Situations and the Martial Law Act”.

The rights body said the security sweeps in separatist strongholds across the southern border provinces have included illegal and arbitrary detentions”.

“Common forms of torture and other ill-treatment that have been reported are: ear-slapping, punching, kicking, beating with wooden and metal clubs, forced nudity, exposure to cold temperature, electric shock, strangulation and suffocation with plastic bags,” it said.

“Lawyers and independent medical experts interviewed by Human Rights Watch have reported similar accounts.”

The conflict has claimed more than 3,500 lives since early 2004. According to the Thai Journalists Association and police data, more than 500 civilians were killed last year alone in over 1,000 attacks.

HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams said: “The daily situation in Thailand’s south is a tragic replay of abuses and violence committed by both sides. The lives and rights of people are constantly at risk in this devastating conflict.”

The response of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and army chief Anupong Paochinda to the ruling in the imam’s death will be watched closely.

In a policy speech on Dec 30, Abhisit stressed that justice would have to be a key ingredient in any solution to the conflict.

The Democrat Party will be under pressure to prevail upon the army to hold the responsible soldiers accountable in this case. The party, which leads the ruling coalition, derives much of its support from southern voters.

They detested former premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s hardline attitude when the current cycle of separatist violence erupted in early 2004.

In an editorial last Friday, the English daily The Nation said: “With a new government in place, this is an opportunity to overhaul the counter-insurgency strategy and impose effective civilian control over the army, as well as to provide efficient redress for victims of abuse.

“We also need to think seriously about changing our perception of the violence and to understand it as a historical conflict, rather than in the narrow definition of law and order.” – Straits Times



   Imam death ruling to test Thai govt 

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