Thai court: No assault or foul play in suspected insurgent’s in-custody death

Mariyam Ahmad
2022.05.09
Pattani, Thailand
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Thai court: No assault or foul play in suspected insurgent’s in-custody death The body of Abdullah Esomuso, a suspected insurgent who fell into a coma while in military custody and died two months later, is transported to a cemetery in Pattani, a province in southern Thailand, Aug. 25, 2019.
Mariyam Ahmad/BenarNews

There was no evidence to show that a suspected insurgent who fell into a coma and died after the Thai military arrested him was tortured during interrogation or there was foul play in his 2019 death, a court in southern Thailand ruled Monday.

The ruling by the court in Songkhla province ended its two-year inquest into the case of the in-custody death of Abdullah Esomuso, 34, and dashed his family’s hopes that military personnel might be charged in connection with it.

The court ruled that “evidence and witnesses could not establish that Abdullah died of physical attack. Therefore, it ruled that he died of oxygen deprivation to the brain and the heart ceased to function during the detention in Fort Inkayuthaboriharn,” Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, director of the Cross-Cultural Foundation, an NGO assisting the family, told BenarNews.

The court ruling, however, did not contain any information or finding about what caused the oxygen deprivation to Abdullah’s brain or his heart to stop beating.

“The relatives and the public want to know whether anyone cause such oxygen deprivation to Abdullah and for him to have a swollen brain, but the hearing failed to answer the questions … oxygen deprivation and the suffocation must have been caused by humans,” Pornpen said.

Abdullah’s widow, Sumaiyah Minga, who listened to the ruling during a teleconference, said she had expected to lose.

“I have to accept the ruling. But I was prepared myself to face that I would never win the case,” Sumaiyah told BenarNews. “I’ve just fought the best I could.”

The inquest featured testimony from as many as 21 people, including 13 military officers. Those who testified included autopsy doctors, medical officers, police investigators and Abdullah’s survivors.

Zakiman Benjadecha, a lawyer with the Muslim Attorney Council Foundation who represents Abdullah’s survivors, had previously told BenarNews that the inquest was meant to check the official autopsy following his death. Had the Songkhla court ruled there was torture, the survivors could have pushed for criminal prosecution of the officers on duty.

Col. Kiatisak Neewong, spokesman for ISOC-4, the military’s regional command, said Abdullah’s survivors had the right to call for the inquest.

Thailand’s Deep South region encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province. Since the separatist insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,300 people have been killed in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

Initial autopsy

Abdullah was found unconscious at 3 a.m. July 21, 2019, in an interrogation center at an army camp in Nong Chik, a district of Pattani province, where he had been held for 10 hours. That prompted his family to question if military interrogators had beaten or tortured him.

He died in a hospital on Aug. 25, 2019, while still in military custody.

That same month, Abdul-asib Tadae-ing, who sits on the Committee to Protect Human Rights in the Deep South, said doctors stated they had found no signs of torture on Abdullah’s body.

“According to the doctors, the cause of death was severe pneumonia and septic shock, which happened after he had suffered from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy [oxygen deprivation to the brain],” Abdul-asib said in a statement at the time.

“The oxygen deprivation could mean torture such as suffocation with a bag, water boarding as some people claimed, or simply [that] he fainted without receiving CPR. The doctors said torture would show traces such as hemorrhaging in the eyes, swollen gums and a darkened face, which were not found in the case of Abdullah,” he said.

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