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ARKIB : 01/11/2004

Freed detainees tell horror tales while in custody

THAI Muslim detainees walk free after being released in Tak Bai province, southern Thailand, Oct 31. - AFPpix.

TAK BAI (Narathiwat) Oct 31 - Horror stories are emerging of the cruel treatment in custody of the hundreds of Thai Muslims detained after a riot in Tak Bai on Monday.

A 22-year-old rubber tapper from Kampung Homo Nenas, Tak Bai, who wished to be known only as Mamat, told Bernama he and other detainees were piled several layers deep in an army truck "like logs" while being transported to an army camp three hours away.

"We were forced to lie prone with our hands tied, one on top of another. It was difficult to breathe, but we were not allowed to move. If we did, the soldiers would kick us and hit us with their rifle butts," he said.

Mamat was in the fourth layer out of six, so he could breathe a little, but he saw several detainees forced to bite others in their struggle to breathe before suffocating to death.

Another survivor was Abdullah, 19, of Kampung Telian, Tak Bai.

"When I heard gunshots, I went out to look, but suddenly I was detained and thrown into a truck. Luckily, I was in the top layer, otherwise I don't know what would have happened to me," said Abdullah, who was on a one-month vacation from his university in Bangkok.

On their first day of detention, they were given food only at 3 am (4 am Malaysian time), but on subsequent days were given food twice a day and were allowed to perform their prayers, he said.

They were also questioned about their involvement in the riot. Although they were given 20 bahts (RM20) and clothes on their release, Abdullah said this was little recompense for the cruel treatment they received while in custody.

Some of the 1,300 demonstrators detained in the riot and were sent to army camps in Pattani, Nakhon Si Thamarat, Songkhla, Surattani and Chumphon are being released in stages.

A check by Bernama at the Tak Bai Secondary School showed relatives were waiting since 8 am for detainees from Tak Bai to return. - Bernama

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