Amnesty: Thai army tortures Pattanis in detention centers
One victim talked of being made to dunk his head into sewage before having a plastic bag forced over his head.
The Thai army and police routinely torture suspected Muslim insurgents in the far south, using everything from beatings to electric shocks to simulated suffocation, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
At least four people have died as a result of torture in the southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces, the London-based human rights group said in a report.
Donna Guest, Amnesty's deputy Asia director, said that nothing justifies the security forces' reliance on torture in case of the insurgents in southern Thailand used forces.
"Torture is absolutely illegal and, as the situation in southern Thailand proves, alienates the local population," she added.
Amnesty said the government and military chiefs in Bangkok had issued frequent directives against torture, but the abuse "remained sufficiently frequent and widespread that it cannot be dismissed as the work of a few errant subordinates in isolated instances".
A government spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
The latest report detailed the cases of 34 Muslims detained by police and the army from March 2007 to May 2008 in the region.
Pattani, southern Thailand, was an independent sultanate until it was annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand a century ago.
The people of the region have struggled for independence. 3,500 people have been killed in clash with Thailand forces during a five-year pro-independence insurgency.
One victim described being buried up to the neck in a pit, while another talked of being made to dunk his head into sewage before having a plastic bag forced over his head.
Tensions have always been high in the four southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla, where 80 percent of the population are Muslim and have more in common with neighbouring Malaysia, speaking a Malay dialect.
The rubber-rich region has suffered daily bombings, arson attacks or drive-by shootings by thai security forces since 2004 after a raid on a military base took soldiers completely surprise.
New Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has pledged to resolve the southern conflict, although his comments echo those of his four predecessors, none of whom made any headway.
Amnesty said Abhisit should close more than 20 unofficial detention centres where abuse has been reported and rescind parts of the martial law that has given blanket immunity to soldiers and police in the region, before prosecuting abusers.
Reuters Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2009, 17:05