Imam's slaying key test for Thailand justice

An international rights watchdog said Wednesday that the death and apparent torture of a Thai Muslim cleric in military custody highlights the army's mistreatment of Muslims in Thailand's south.

Imam's slaying key test for Thailand justice
Human Rights Watch said Yapa Koseng, a 56-year-old Muslim prayer leader, was arrested 19 Mar for suspected involvement in bombings in the southern province of Narathiwat, and two days later relatives who went to visit him were told he had died.

Yapa's body was "covered with bruises and burn marks, and his ribs were fractured," the New York-based rights group said in a statement, citing accounts from family members.

Army spokesman Col. Thanathip Sawangsaeng said Wednesday that an investigation into Yapa's death was under way, but initial examinations indicated he "died from his own medical conditions."

He said any officers found guilty would face justice.

Muslims have long complained of mistreatment and discrimination in Thailand's south.

"Muslims in southern Thailand live in fear of the army storming in to take their men away to be tortured," said Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The army is fighting an insurgency, but that doesn't mean soldiers can abuse people."

Human Rights Watch said it "is deeply concerned about the sincerity" of army pledges that an impartial investigation into the imam's death will be carried out.

Yapa's family was told that forensic experts had conducted an autopsy but they were not allowed to see the report, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch has interviewed numerous Muslims in Thailand's southern provinces who were recently released from detention at Thai Army facilities who complained of being tortured as well as lawyers and independent medical experts who have seen detainees during and after their release.

The most common forms of torture and other ill treatment were ear slapping, punching, kicking, beating with wooden and metal clubs, forced nudity, exposure to cold temperatures, electrical shock, strangulation and suffocation with plastic bags, the rights group said in a statement.

Last Mod: 26 Mart 2008, 14:55
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