Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Thai administration must handle imam’s case: HRW

AFP , BANGKOK

Thailand’s new prime minister must ensure that troops who tortured and killed a Muslim cleric in the far south face justice, a rights group said yesterday, adding that such abuses fueled unrest in the region.

Imam Yapa Koseng, 56, was a religious leader arrested in March last year. He died days later in military custody in the Muslim-majority deep south, where a deadly separatist insurgency is raging.

“Prosecuting the soldiers who killed an imam in army detention will be a test of the administration of Thailand’s new prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva,” New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Abhisit has vowed to quell the five-year rebellion, which has left more than 3,500 people dead.

In Narathiwat Province last month, an inquest ruled that Yapa died after beatings by soldiers during interrogation, an army spokesman said, adding that five soldiers would be prosecuted.

HRW said the imam’s death highlighted broader human rights violations in the south, including illegal and arbitrary detention and torture including beatings, electric shocks and strangulation.

“The new government needs to overhaul the counter-insurgency strategy that encourages abuses, impose effective civilian control over the army and provide efficient redress for victims of abuses,” said HRW Asia Director Brad Adams. “By relying on repressive measures and restrictions on fundamental human rights, Thai authorities have created a fertile ground for the insurgency to expand.”

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