Deep South rebel abducted, tortured, and killed, BRN says

Muzliza Mustafa, Subel Rai Bhandari, Mariyam Ahmad, and Matahari Ismail
2022.10.19
Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Pattani and Narathiwat, Thailand
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Deep South rebel abducted, tortured, and killed, BRN says A boat is seen at a pier on the Thai side of the Kolok River overlooking the Malaysian town of Rantau Panjang, Aug. 29, 2022.
Subel Rai Bhandari/BenarNews

Updated at 1:54 p.m. ET on 2022-10-19

A severely bruised body found floating in a river along the Thai-Malay border belongs to a Deep South insurgent who went missing after allegedly being abducted last month, the BRN rebel group said Wednesday, warning that the killing might harm peace talks with Thailand.

The man whose body was discovered in the Kolok River was a member of the military wing of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN, or the National Revolutionary Front), the group’s chief peace negotiator confirmed to BenarNews.

The dead man, 42-year-old Zahri Bin Abdullah (also known as Yahri Dueloh), headed the insurgent group’s youth wing in the Thai province of Narathiwat and had been living in northern Malaysia for the past few years, other sources close to BRN told BenarNews. A Thai military source denied allegations that government security personnel were behind Zahri’s abduction from the Malaysian side of the border as well as his torture and killing.

“Zahri was abducted on Sept. 27, and his body was found in the river two days later. A DNA test confirmed that the body belonged to Zahri,” said Anas Abdulrahman, also known as Hipni Mareh, who heads the BRN peace panel in the Malaysia-brokered talks.

In a separate statement issued overnight, the BRN insinuated that Thai security forces had kidnapped and killed Zahri.

“BRN strongly condemns the extra-judicial killing of people suspected of affiliation with BRN. Such acts are direct violations of the Geneva Conventions,” BRN said in a statement sent to BenarNews.

The incident has “greatly eroded the trust of BRN in particular, and the Patani community in general,” the rebel group added.

Zahri’s killing will “definitely affect” the peace process if it turns out that Thai authorities were involved, Anas said, adding they didn’t know who was behind the killing or what their motives were.

“Thai officials certainly did not abduct and kill Zahri,” said a Thai military source in the Deep South who was not authorized to speak to reporters on the record.

The commander of the 4th Army Region Command, which covers the Deep South, declined to comment.

BRN-insurgent-cropped-inside.jpeg
Zahri Bin Abdullah, who was also known as Yahri Dueloh. [Undated handout photo released by Thai officials]

Abducted, tortured, and killed

BRN and Anas alleged that Zahri was abducted by a group of men in three vehicles from a small town in Rantau Panjang sub-district, in the Malaysian state of Kelantan, near the Thai border.

They said he was brutally killed with severe bodily injuries, and there were signs of electrocution and strangulation.

“His eyebrows were missing. Also missing was one of his ears,” Anas said. “The clothing was different from the time he was abducted. The watch on the body was not Zahri’s. The identification card found on him also belonged to someone else.”

Malaysian and Thai sources said the dead man had identification cards from both countries, which is not unusual for people who live along the border.

According to a second Thai official, the military held Zahri for interrogation in 2015, and he was wanted for three crimes, including an alleged arson attack and killings of policemen in 2017 and 2018.

A third Thai military source who also spoke on condition of anonymity said Zahri returned to Malaysia in September after being detained briefly for questioning about attacks in Sungai Padi, Narathiwat in August and September.

A source in Thailand suspected that the killing could have been done by those trying to disrupt the negotiations between Thailand and BRN.

“It could have been done by ‘peace spoilers’ who did not want the negotiation to succeed,” said the source, who declined to be named due to security reasons.

Anas.jpeg
Anas Abdulrahman (center), the head of the panel representing Barisan Revolusi Nasional rebels in peace talks with Thailand who is also known as Hipni Mareh, and fellow BRN delegates take part in a post-meetings press conference at a hotel in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, Aug. 3, 2022. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

After the latest peace efforts started in 2020, Thai government negotiators and BRN representatives have held three rounds of in-person talks this year near Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement sent to BenarNews late Tuesday, BRN said they were pursuing peace efforts with total commitment and want “a lasting political settlement, one which is dignified and leads to sustainable and genuine peace.” However, such cases of abductions, killings, and other abuses experienced by BRN members “clearly erode the trust and confidence in the peace process.”

The group added that the Thai government had not given “security guarantees and legal immunity” to their leaders and representatives inside and outside the country that are “normally mandated” in peace negotiations elsewhere.

“There is a huge question mark now, ‘How will BRN representatives be able to safely proceed with public consultations if there are no clear safety and security guarantees?’” the group said in its statement.

Lt. Gen. Thira Daehwa, the secretary of the Thai negotiating team, told BenarNews in August after the last round of talks that the Thai side was open to discussing the immunity issue more with BRN.

The next round of talks was supposed to take place in October but had been postponed until next month. Officials had not given any reason for the delay.

Since the insurgency flared up again in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others injured in violence across the region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

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