When Torture is a Duty: The Murder of Imam Yapa Kaseng and the Challenge of Accountability in Thailand

Tyrell Haberkorn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Abstract: On 19 March 2008, Imam Yapa Kaseng was arrested in Narathiwat in southern Thailand and detained as a suspected insurgent by Special Task Force 39 under the provisions of martial law and the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in an Emergency Situation (hereafter Emergency Decree). Two days after his arrest, he died in the custody of the army. On 25 December 2008, the Narathiwat Provincial Court ruled that "the cause of death is that the deceased was physically assaulted by state officials … while he was in the custody of soldiers who were performing their civil service duties". This ruling is paradoxical: Thai state officials are named as responsible for a death in custody, yet torture is categorised as a "duty". Since the ruling, Imam Yapa's family has pursued criminal, civil and internal state methods of redress, but the case has been stalled and the responsible state officials have not been held accountable. In response, I challenge this paradox by reading the inquest decision in light of both relevant national and international legal instruments and the testimonies given during the hearings. Drawing on the testimonies given during the inquest hearings, I construct an alternative narrative of suffering and state accountability.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)53-68
    JournalAsian Studies Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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