By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia
BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai officials have pledged to investigate the death of Yapa Kaseng, a Muslim prayer leader. He was arrested on March 19th for his alleged involvement in bomb attacks by insurgents. According to his relatives, his body showed signs of torture. Yapa Kaseng’s body as covered with bruises and burn marks, and his ribs appeared fractured.
Army Chief General Anupong Phaochinda announced that a special committee would investigate the death and punish guilty parties. However, Human Rights Watch [HRW] is deeply concerned that the pledge is insincere because Yapa Kaseng’s family has been pressured to remain silent and not pursue a lawsuit.
In interviews with HRW, other Muslims said they have been tortured by interrogators after being arrested. The most common forms of torture were ear-slapping, punching, kicking, beating with wooden and metal clubs, forced nudity, exposure to cold temperatures, electric shocks, strangulation, and suffocation with plastic bags.
In response to the torture allegations, Army spokesman Colonel Acra Tiproch said only “a small faction” of Muslim detainees had been abused and then only because they “provoked” interrogators as a ploy to demonize the Buddhist state and its troops. He continued, “Some of these suspects are well-educated and they know well how to make junior interrogators lose their patience and start beating them.”
Thailand annexed the three southern provinces in 1902, and then tensions began to erupt between the region’s largely Muslim population and the largely Buddhist country of Thailand. A separatist campaign started in the 1970’s.
The separatist campaign erupted again in 2004 after a decade of peace. Muslim separatists have become increasingly angry with the Thai government because it began to impose assimilation policies in the region, which included adopting Thai names, giving up religious and cultural customs, and ending education in the Malayu language. Thus far, the conflict has caused about 3,000 deaths in the last 50 months, according to the Bangkok Post.
For more information, please see:
Inter Press Service – Thailand: Islamic Teachers Blamed for Violent Separatism –24 March 2008
Reuters – Detained Muslims Tortured by Thai Army: Rights Body – 26 March 2008