Two soldiers in southern Thailand have been charged with the murder of three civilian loggers in Narathiwat, Province. A military spokesman said on Wednesday, in a rare rebuke.
The shooting occurred in the insurgency-torn region where rights groups have long demanded greater transparency.
The two soldiers turned themselves in on Dec 20 and are now out on bail. Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Pramote Prom-in gave no details about the victims.
“There will be an investigation and above all we will follow the legal procedures,” he said.
The bodies of three civilian men were found in a mountainous area where insurgent are alleged to hideout. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a sign warns villagers about foraging there to avoid “misunderstanding” by authorities.
Human Rights Watch group said the case was unprecedented
“Now there is a little bit of hope for justice, but it’s still a long way to go.” HRW senior Thailand researcher Sunai Phasuk was quoted as saying.
The charges also come months after a nationwide furore over the death in a separate case of Abdulloh Esormusor. Abdulloh was consequently a suspected insurgent who fell into a coma after interrogation at an army camp in southern Thailand.
The Thai military has above all rejected allegations of torture and urged the public to wait for the result of an official inquiry.
A decade-old separatist insurgency has escalated in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. Southern Thailand also has a largely ethnic Malay-Muslim that has seen nearly 7,000 people killed since 2004.