Suspected Rebel’s Family Seeks Justice after Thai Agency Ends Death Probe

Mariyam Ahmad
Pattani, Thailand
Suspected Rebel’s Family Seeks Justice after Thai Agency Ends Death Probe Relatives of Abdullah Esomuso prepare to transport his body for his funeral at a cemetery in Pattani, a province in southern Thailand, Aug. 25, 2019.

The widow of a suspected rebel who died in military custody in Thailand’s Deep South in 2019 expressed concern Tuesday that justice would not be served after a law enforcement agency last week terminated its probe into the case.

Abdullah Esomuso was found unconscious at 3 a.m. on July 21, 2019, in an interrogation center at an army camp in Pattani province, where he had been held for 10 hours, prompting his family to question if military interrogators had tortured him. After falling into a coma, he died in a hospital several weeks later, while still in military custody.

“We are disappointed with the government agency because our hope is to find justice for the family. We reached out to DSI so they could help find evidence against the offender,” the widow, Sumaiyah Minga, told BenarNews, referring to the Department of Special Investigation, which had been investigating the case.

Sumaiyah said her family had received a letter dated Jan. 11 stating that “the director of DSI has terminated the probe and will send the finding to the Nong Jik police station. The family has a right to request the DSI to arrange a committee board to consider a re-opening of this case when there is new and significant evidence or fact which has not been included in the last probe.”

“Our family cannot do that by ourselves. Now the government wants us to find new evidence so they can reopen the case. Where can we find that?” Sumaiyah said.

On Tuesday, officials at the DSI did not immediately respond to a request from BenarNews for comment about the status of Abdullah’s case.

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Abdullah’s survivors said he remained hopeful that court proceedings scheduled to resume next month could lead to a determination of the cause of death.

Zakiman Benjadecha, an attorney with the Muslim Lawyers Foundation, which represents the family, said he did not think that the DSI investigation had turned up essential evidence.

“Personally, I think that this termination by the DSI will not affect the court ruling,” he told BenarNews.

Abdullah’s survivors had previously asked several organizations to investigate his death including the Department of Special Investigation and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC).

In July 2021, the commission notified Abdullah’s relatives that it had finished its own investigation.

“There was no clear medical evidence to show what had caused his death … and there was no evidence to confirm who had injured or sickened him either,” the commission said in an 11-page document seen by BenarNews.

The letter noted that the NHRC was not required to continue with its investigation because a court was holding hearings in the case.

The Songkhla Provincial Court began hearings in November 2020. It has set court dates for Feb. 19 and 20, 2022, to hear additional testimony.

Col. Kiattisak Neewong, a spokesman for Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC-4) which oversees the insurgency-afflicted Deep South, said “the army will send staff to talk with the family about what has happened.”

The Deep South encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province. Since the separatist insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others injured in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

“We have sent a document to the local agency to discuss with the victim’s family. This is just a normal access to justice process,” Kiattisak told BenarNews. “The army has been trying to talk with the family during the process and will continue to do so. We will not leave anyone behind.”


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