Frustrated father in struggle to free his wrongly accused son

Frustrated father in struggle to free his wrongly accused son

THAILAND - Frustration over repeated injustice prompted a 51-year-old father to burst out: "I don't know how to express the pain I felt over our family's plight. If the opposite side [deep South insurgents and sympathisers] asked me to cut down trees, sprinkle road spikes or burn tyres on roads, I'd have done it." Sukree Taleh, from Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district, was recalling his four-year battle for justice for his son Ma-asam.

One factor leading to the region's ongoing unrest was injustice against residents, which stemmed from problems within the justice system including some law-enforcers' unfair treatment and lack of integration among related agencies.

In the past decade, the court's acquittal rate was 70 per cent. Out of the 8,778 national security cases from early 2004 until 2012, only 2,079 cases were able to identify the culprits. Only 1,472 national security cases have seen suspects captured so far.

Police reasoned that it was difficult to arrest culprits when people did not dare to be witnesses and the attacks were carried out with a special motivation - not a personal dispute, or a conflict of interest - as in other regions.

The case concerning Sukree Taleh's family, however, shows a different angle. In local residents' eyes, it was already tough to survive in the "red zone", but accusations that family members were crime suspects worsened the family's situation.

In July 2009, the Taleh family's home was raided twice by police to arrest Ma-asam for conspiracy to murder in December 2008, as well as the illegal possession of guns. Sukree tried in vain to explain to police that his son had been jailed since July 2007 for a deadly assault on a thief who tried to steal rubber at Ma-asam's employer's plantation. However, Sukree's appeal to the police - that Ma-asam couldn't possibly have shot anyone in the 2008 case - fell on deaf ears.

Sukree, therefore, talked with the victim's relatives and was told that they had not identified Ma-asam as the culprit.

After his release in April 2012, Ma-asam was summoned by police and so he fled to Malaysia, with the risk that rage over his injustice, could have turned him into an insurgent sympathiser.

Sukree, in the meantime, filed an appeal for justice at various agencies, until Central Investigation Bureau chief Lt-General Pongpat Chayapan, picked up his complaint in August.

Pongpat assigned Colonel Athip Thaenin to work with public prosecutors and Sungai Padi Police Station. Athip got prison officials' confirmation of Ma-asam's incarceration during the alleged murder attempt, resulting in the revocation of Ma-asam's arrest warrant.

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