A Thai court has sentenced three suspected rebels to life in prison after finding them guilty of involvement in a roadside explosion that killed four soldiers in Thailand’s insurgency-hit Deep South in September 2017, a military spokesman said Friday.
The court in Pattani province also ordered two alleged insurgents to serve 14 years in prison, as it acquitted the sixth defendant, the official said. A seventh man was still on trial for the same attack, he said.
The seven defendants – tagged by military investigators as members of an insurgent movement – were charged with sabotage, conspiring to form criminal syndicate, murder and attempted murder and possession of illegal weapons, Col. Thanawee Suwanarat, spokesman for the Army’s Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, told reporters.
“The Pattani Court originally handed death sentences to Mayusof Mayadeng, Ameen Hoya and Mahamasoree samae, but commuted their sentences to life imprisonment because they pleaded guilty to the police level,” Thanawee said.
The sentencings, which did not receive media coverage, took place on Jan. 17, defense lawyer Anukul Awaeputeh and relatives of the defendants told BenarNews.
On Sept. 22, 2017, suspected insurgents detonated an 80-kilogram (176-lb) improvised explosive device on a highway in Sai Buri, a district in Pattani, killing four soldiers and wounding six others who were on board a pickup truck, officials said.
Five of the defendants were arrested as suspects three days after the bombing, police said.
Maj. Gen. Jatuporn Kalampasut, deputy commander of the army’s southern region, said at the time that investigators believed that the blast was carried out by the tactical unit of Barisan Revolusi Nasional or BRN, Thailand’s most-powerful insurgent group, which has stayed away from peace talks with Bangkok.
Rights activists have accused the military in insurgency-hit areas of the Deep South of using torture and other heavy-handed techniques to get confession from suspected insurgents. Military officials deny those allegations.
A relative of one of the defendants said he respects the verdict.
“My relative knows of what he did, but I can’t say anything else,” said the relative who requested anonymity.
Anukul Awaeputeh, a member of the Muslim Attorney Council, who represents the defendants said, he was preparing documents and would file an appeal.
“We try our best to fight the case for the clients,” Anukul told BenarNews.
Since January, at least 16 people have been killed and 20 injured in the Deep South region, according to figures gathered by BenarNews from police and military reports.
The Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces as well as four districts in Songkhla province. Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the region since the insurgency flared up in early 2004.