Thai Court to Issue Inquest Finding May 9 in Rebel Suspect’s Death

Mariyam Ahmad
2022.02.22
Pattani, Thailand
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Thai Court to Issue Inquest Finding May 9 in Rebel Suspect’s Death Relatives of Abdullah Esomuso prepare to bury his body during his funeral at a cemetery in Pattani, a province in southern Thailand, Aug. 25, 2019.
[BenarNews]

A court in Thailand’s troubled Deep South will issue an inquest finding in May on whether foul play was involved when a suspected insurgent fell into a coma while in military custody and later died, his widow and the family’s lawyer said Tuesday.

Abdullah Esomuso had been taken into custody after an alleged rebel cell-leader implicated him in a series of insurgent attacks, according to officials. A military-appointed committee cleared Thai army officials of any role in Abdullah’s August 2019 death.  

The inquest will verify findings from an autopsy conducted in 2019, which had said there were no signs of torture or foul play, according to the family’s lawyer, Zakiman Benjadecha. The autopsy said Abdullah had succumbed to severe pneumonia and septic shock.

 “The Songkhla court set May 9 for the ruling [on the inquest],” Zakiman Benjadecha, an attorney with the Muslim Lawyers’ Foundation, told BenarNews.

“In case the court rules … in favor of the family, [we] will push for prosecution,” said Zakiman. “But if the official side wins, Nong Chik police will drop the case.”

In late August 2019, a military-appointed regional human rights committee had said that the doctors’ autopsy showed no signs of torture on Abdullah’s body.

Abdullah 34, 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 tortured him. After falling into a coma, he died in a hospital on Aug. 25, 2019, while still in military custody.

Soon after his death, Abdullah’s family filed a formal complaint with Nong Chik police and later sought an inquest from the Songkhla provincial court.

During the past weekend, the Songkhla court finished hearing testimony from about 25 witnesses, including 13 officers and personnel from the military camp, doctors, a police investigator and Abdullah’s relatives and co-witnesses, Zakiman said.

Meanwhile, Sumaiyah Minga, Abdullah’s widow, said she did not have faith in the judicial process.

“I’m looking forward to learn about the outcome,” she told BenarNews on Tuesday.

“But deep in my heart, I am preparing to lose as we all know what Thailand’s justice is like.”

Col. Kiattisak Neewong, a spokesman for Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC-4) which oversees the insurgency-afflicted Deep South, said the military honors the judicial system.

“We abide by the rule of law. We did not want this to happen,” Kiattisak told BenarNews on Tuesday.

“Officials followed the law and regret the incident. Officials continue to visit the family to give them moral support.”

Abdullah’s widow, Sumaiyah, said last December that she received 500,000 baht (U.S. $15,430) from the authorities for as initial compensation for her husband’s death, and another 32,400 baht (U.S. $1,000) for the damage caused during his detention.

That same month, the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC), which oversees the Deep South’s civilian affairs, said it would begin to give Sumaiyah money on an annual basis for the education of her two children until they complete their bachelor’s degree, or turn 25.

“I agreed with the SBPAC for their funding the education annually, and I intend to raise my kids properly and give them an education,” she said back then.

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

During that time, rights groups have accused the military of using excessive force in the Deep South, including systematic torture and extrajudicial killings against insurgents.

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