Thai PM says 'to end army abuse in Muslim south'

Thai PM Vejjajiva said would "to end human rights abuses by soldiers in the Muslim south where a rights group said suspected insurgents are routinely tortured."

Thai PM says 'to end army abuse in Muslim south'

Thailand's prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has admitted human rights abuses are being carried out against suspected Muslim fighters in the south of the country.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said would on Saturday "to end human rights abuses by soldiers in the Muslim south where a rights group said suspected insurgents are routinely tortured."

"In an area with 50-60,000 soldiers, it might happen," Abhisit said in response to allegations by Amnesty International that soldiers and police used beatings, electric shocks and simulated suffocation.

"If it is true, we will prosecute them. From now on, we will not allow human rights violations. If there are more violations, someone must be held responsible," he told reporters on his first trip to the region since becoming leader last month.

At least four people have died as a result of torture in the Muslim provinces, the London-based human rights group said in a report on Tuesday.

Amnesty said the government and army chiefs in Bangkok had issued frequent directives against torture but the abuse was "sufficiently frequent and widespread that it cannot be dismissed as the work of a few errant subordinates in isolated instances".

The report detailed the cases of 34 Muslims detained by police and the army from March 2007 to May 2008 in the region, an independent Muslim sultanate until Thailand occupied it.

One victim described being buried up to the neck in a pit, while another talked of being made to dunk his face into sewage before having a plastic bag forced over his head.

Emergency decree renewed

Abhisit has promised a review of the 2005 emergency decree, which Amnesty said paved the way for serious abuses.

The decree allows officials to detain suspects without formal charges for up to 30 days, provided preliminary court approval is obtained. It also gives soldiers and police blanket immunity in the region.

But the cabinet still extended the decree by another three months on Tuesday, Abhisit said it may "not be renewed again".

"We are in discussions with the army and police about its effectiveness and necessity," he said in Pattani, one of four Muslim provinces.

Abhisit has made ending the conflict one of his top priorities, although his comments echo those of his four predecessors, none of whom made any headway.

Tensions have always been high in the provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla, where its people are Muslim.


Reuters

Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2009, 14:40
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