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Thai PM vows to end army, police abuses

THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva vowed yesterday to end human rights abuses by security forces in the Muslim far south where a rights group said suspected insurgents were routinely tortured.

"In an area with 50-60,000 soldiers, it might happen," Abhisit said in response to allegations by Amnesty International that soldiers and police used beatings, electric shocks and simulated suffocation.

"If it is true, we will prosecute them. From now on, we will not allow human rights violations. If there are more violations, someone must be held responsible," he said on his first trip to the restive region since becoming leader last month.

At least four people have died as a result of torture in the southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces, where 3,500 people have been killed in a five-year separatist rebellion, the London-based human rights group said in a report last week.

Amnesty said the government and army chiefs in Bangkok had issued frequent directives against torture but the abuse was "sufficiently frequent and widespread that it can not be dismissed as the work of a few errant subordinates in isolated instances."

The report detailed the cases of 34 Muslims detained by police and the army from March 2007 to May 2008 in the region, an independent sultanate until it was annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

One victim described being buried up to the neck in a pit, while another talked of being made to dunk his face into sewage before having a plastic bag forced over his head.

Abhisit, whose Democrat Party enjoys popular support in the region, has promised a review of the 2005 emergency decree, which Amnesty said allowed for serious abuses.


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