The government and the army owe the public a clear explanation of what led to the death of Abdulloh Esormusor, a 32-year-old insurgent suspect who fell into a coma while in custody at a Pattani military camp.
Human rights watchdogs have cried foul over Abdulloh's death, which intensifies suspicions that torture is routine in the interrogation of suspects in the deep South.
Abdulloh, who was a resident of Pattani's Sai Buri district, was arrested at his home early last month after a leading rebel implicated him in insurgent activities. The authorities took him to Ingkayutthaboriharn military camp for questioning. His wife contacted the camp in order to visit her husband, but had no chance to meet him.
She learned that just hours after being detained, he was rushed to Songklanagarind Hospital when first aid at the camp clinic failed to rouse him from unconsciousness.
Doctors said Abdulloh had suffered a cerebral oedema, or swelling of the brain, and failed to regain consciousness. The cause of death, they said, was acute pneumonia and septic shock, though Abdulloh was said to have been in good health at the time of his arrest.
Doubting they would receive justice from the authorities, the family refused an autopsy and collected his body for brisk burial, as per Islamic tradition. They vowed, however, to discover the truth about his death.
Earlier, doctors had pointed out that brain swelling can be caused by suffocation.
The Internal Security Operations Command's (Isoc) Region 4 Forward Command launched two probes into Abdulloh's death but denied any foul play.
"There is no evidence that the suspect's collapse resulted from soldiers' actions," the first probe found, adding that a medical check-up had confirmed he was fit to be interviewed.
Isoc insisted there were no marks on the suspect's body that could be linked to his coma. But this does not rule out torture, given that certain torture techniques leave no trace on the body.
Suspicions of misconduct by authorities seem justified for one major reason: security footage that could reveal what happened to Abdulloh is unavailable, with authorities claiming all cameras were out of order.
The same claim has previously been made in a remarkable number of similar cases. Meanwhile, Abdulloh had no chance to give an account of what he went through before he met with a premature death.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was scornful during a parliamentary inquiry on the case last month, insisting that those alleging torture had no evidence.
"Have they been watching too many movies?" he said.
As former army chief, Gen Prayut should know better. Abdulloh is only the latest in a string of insurgent suspects to have died in military custody under suspicious circumstances. Gen Prayut should know that scorn is no substitute for justice. The government must instead ensure a fair investigation. Abdulloh's family deserves no less.
If the government wants to achieve peace in the deep South, it must first eradicate the culture of impunity and injustice among security forces there. Punishing those in the wrong is one of the keys to peace.