A Muslim man left in a coma after being interrogated at a notorious Thai detention centre died Sunday, as pressure mounts on the army to release further findings of a probe into the case.
Abdulloh Esormusor, a suspected rebel from the country's restive south died early Sunday morning, more than a month after he was taken to the Inkayuth military camp, his cousin Mohammatrahmat Mamu told reporters.
The army could not immediately be reached for comment but previously said Abdulloh's severe brain swelling could have been due to an aneurysm or suffocation.
A rebellion against Thai rule in the culturally distinct "Deep South" bordering Malaysia has left nearly 7,000 dead – the majority civilians – since 2004.
Inkayuth is the Thai army's biggest detention centre in the south, where suspects are taken for interrogation and held under emergency laws and where rights groups have documented torture.
The treatment of 34-year-old Abdulloh – who was unconscious when he was transferred to a hospital hours after arriving at the camp – cast a rare spotlight on clashes in the region and could be linked to a deadly raid and separate bombings in Bangkok.
The death is a test case for the Thai government, said Sunai Phasuk, senior Thailand researcher for Human Rights Watch.
"Will they allow rogue officials to organize a cover-up, or will they ensure a transparent and impartial criminal investigation and prosecute those found responsible?"
His family says he was not involved with insurgents launching bloody attacks in a fight for more autonomy.
An umbrella organisation representing some of the shadowy rebel groups has said they suspect "foul play" in the case.
Days after Abdulloh's detention four people were killed in a late-night attack on a military outpost, fuelling speculation of a retaliatory operation.
A week later several small bombs exploded in Bangkok, injuring four people as the city hosted a major summit attended by top diplomats, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Thailand has linked the bombs to southern insurgents and said the devices used were similar to those found in the south.
Most of the victims in the conflict are civilians from both Buddhist and Muslim faiths.
Thailand, which has a grim history of political violence and is fighting a long-running rebellion in the Muslim-majority south, remains deeply divided after a controversial March election returned a junta to power as a civilian government.
Experts now fear Abdulloh's death could lead to an uptick in violence. – AFP