Doubts linger about the death of a detained suspected militant
By the News Desk
It is not uncommon for a criminal suspect to be found dead in a detention cell while in police or military custody. And the cause of the death often claimed by the authorities is suicide and, in most cases, by hanging.
25-year old Sulaiman Naesa, a suspected Islamic militant, was found dead at his lodging in the Inkhayuthboriharn army camp in Nong Chik district of Pattani on May 30 – eight days after he was held in custody for alleged security-related offences. He was accused of involvement in 14 violent incidents, mostly in Sai Buri district of Pattani province.
Authorities claimed that he committed suicide by hanging himself to death.
Director of the detention centre at the army camp, Col Piyawat Narkvanich, said that when he learned about Sulaiman’s death he immediately ordered his men to strictly stay away from the detention cell and then reported the incident to Lt-Gen Pichet Wisaijorn, the commander of the Fourth Army Region.
Then authorities concerned, including police and officials from Khuuing Porntip Rojanasunant’s forensic team, were dispatched to the crime scene to inspect the scene and to conduct an autopsy. The victim’s father, Mr Jehwae Naesa, were also taken to the scene to observe the proceedings.
Colonel Piyawat claimed that Mr Jehwae did not question the authorities’ assumption that the victim committed suicide. He further said that the victim was allowed visits by his family on daily basis.
One day before he was found dead, the colonel said that Sulaiman was seen participating in sport activities in the camp. There were no signs that he would take his own life, he added.
Sulaiman reportedly confessed to the accusations against him and implicated other people in the militant movement. He also led security forces to look for hidden weapons in his own village.
The colonel insisted that the authorities had strictly followed humanitarian principles in their handling of the suspected militants.
Sulaiman’s “suicide” was the first of its case in the detention centre.
However, the victim’s father later admitted to the Press that he doubted his son committed suicide. He said that he had been visiting his son everyday since he had been detained and found out that something was wrong about his son.
“Of all the eight visits, there was never once I had an opportunity to talk with him or even to make eye contact. He was stiff, came out to receive things from me and went back into the detention cell with the guard who was close by,” said Mr Jehwae.
One detainee at the detention centre said that he didn’t notice anything unusual about Sulaiman even one day before he was found dead. He said he had no idea that Sulaiman would commit suicide.
The local human rights organization in Pattani also had doubt about the victim’s suicide citing some suspicious signs: the victim had blood dripping from his genital and there was a wound from a sharpened object on his back just above the waist.
But despite the skepticism about the cause of the victim’s death, it seems that nothing could be done now to find out the truth about the case since the victim had already been buried on the same day of the discovery of his death. There is no chance of the body to be exhumed either for further investigation as his family would not allow it.
As for the military and the detention centre, it appears that the case was closed or swept under the rug. After all, the victim was just another suspected militant.
Instead, the incident should serve a lesson for the military to take a good look at the situation in the detention cell, at least, to prevent a recurrence of such a case.
But for the victim’s family and neighbours in the community, doubt of his death and mistrust of the authorities, the military in particular, persist. And that will pose a problem to the authorities in their desperate fight to contain the insurgency in the deep South. For without good cooperation from the local people, there is a slim chance that the government or the military will be able to win this war no matter how many more troops will be brought in to the restive region.
Caption : Sulaiman Naesa