(New York) – A Thai court’s award of damages for the fatal torture of a Muslim detainee highlights the government’s failure to prosecute soldiers who commit grave abuses in Thailand’s troubled deep south border provinces, Human Rights Watch said today. The case is a critical test of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s vow to bring justice to Thailand’s restive southern border provinces.
On August 21, 2015, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that Ashari Sama-ae, 25, died from injuries he sustained while detained by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) in 2007. The court ordered the Prime Minister's Office, which directs the ISOC, to provide approximately 1,014,000 baht (US$28,000) to Ashari’s family as compensation. However, authorities have not prosecuted any of the soldiers allegedly involved in the torture and killing of Ashari.
- Immediately ensure the safety of all detainees in the southern border provinces;
- Provide urgent medical care to all who sustained injuries during arrest or in detention;
- Allow timely access to legal counsel and family members; and
- Open a full investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
Since a new surge of fighting in the southern border provinces began, Thai security forces have carried out killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other abuses with impunity. The Thai government has yet to prosecute successfully any security personnel for abuses against ethnic Malay Muslims alleged to be involved in the insurgency.
While the Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani (Patani Freedom Fighters) – separatist insurgents in the loose network of BRN-Coordinate (National Revolution Front-Coordinate) – have suffered setbacks from counter-insurgency operations, they are still able to maintain their presence in hundreds of villages. The insurgents have committed numerous atrocities, including indiscriminate bombings and summary killings, against civilians from the ethnic Thai Buddhist and Malay Muslim communities. More than 6,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted in January 2004.
“No one doubts that the Thai government is fighting a brutal insurgency, but that does not justify giving a blank check to troops to commit abuses,” Adams said. “By relying on repressive measures and restrictions on fundamental human rights, Thai authorities have only helped create a fertile ground for further militancy and violence in the deep south.”