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Ten Thai soldiers wanted over death of conscript
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) April 5, 2017

Colombia launches truth commission under peace deal
Bogota (AFP) April 5, 2017 - Colombia created a "truth commission" on Monday to help it heal after decades of war under a recent peace deal with the leftist FARC rebels.

President Juan Manuel Santos also signed into law a decree establishing a special unit to search for people still missing in the country's 53-year conflict.

"Today we are signing the legal decrees" to set up the Truth Clarification Commission and the Special Unit for Seeking People Reported Missing, he said in a speech.

The two new bodies are part of a set of special post-conflict institutions to be set up under the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Special courts are also due to be inaugurated under the accord to try atrocities committed during the conflict.

The heads of the new institutions will be appointed by judicial authorities and foreign delegates including UN officials.

Santos won a Nobel Prize last year for leading the peace effort, which his opponents have fiercely resisted.

Voters narrowly rejected the peace deal in a referendum in October. Critics said it was too soft on FARC members, some of whom would receive amnesties.

But Santos and FARC leaders redrafted the deal before the president successfully pushed it through Congress in March.

Santos said the new post-conflict bodies offer "a guarantee for all those thousands of victims who have spent years and decades waiting for answers."

The Colombian conflict drew in various rebel and paramilitary groups and gangs as well as state forces.

It has killed 260,000 people, displaced nearly seven million and left 60,000 missing, according to official estimates.

Santos has also launched peace talks with the country's last active rebel group, the smaller leftist National Liberation Army (ELN).

Thai police have accused ten soldiers of beating a 22-year-old army conscript to death in a military prison, as the army races to limit damage from the scandal unfolding during its annual draft.

News of the death on April 1 emerged just as the armed forces launched an annual conscription exercise that will see some 100,000 men aged 21 and over enlisted into the military for up two years.

Private Yutthakinun Boonniam, 22, died one day after being taken to hospital from the army prison in the southern province of Surat Thani.

Doctors said he suffered kidney failure after a sustained beating with a hard object.

Images purportedly of the victim and circulated on social media showed his face swollen nearly beyond recognition.

His mother has told local media her son was beaten in the military prison for minor disciplinary offences including oversleeping and missing guard duty.

On Wednesday a military court approved arrest warrants for nine soldiers accused of "a gang assault that resulted in death", Surat Thani's police chief Apichart Boonsrirote told AFP.

A tenth, who is an officer, is also being sought but no arrest warrant was granted since he is not deemed a flight risk.

"Eight are in military custody and will be handed over to police later today," the police chief said.

The death is a public relations disaster for the army as it draws on young conscripts to fill its ranks.

The army chief moved quickly to condemn the death and assured the public of a swift and impartial investigation.

But rights groups say the tragedy is nothing new for a military with a long history of torture and abuse.

"The Thai army faces a chronic inability to end abuses against its conscripts," said Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams, blaming a "culture of impunity".

The watchdog noted that there has been no progress in the prosecution of soldiers allegedly responsible for the death of another private in June 2011.

The military, which has run the country since a 2014 coup, has also repeatedly been accused of extrajudicial killings and the torture of civilians.

The military has vowed to investigate the fatal shooting in March of Chaiyaphum Pasae, a young community campaigner in the north of the country.

But most allegations of army abuse and impunity come from the insurgency-torn "Deep South" of the country, where allegations of killings of unarmed or innocent civilians are rife.

No military personnel have ever been brought to justice over abuses in the southern conflict.

By law all Thai men who do not volunteer for military service must attend a draft lottery at least once after they turn 21. There are exemptions for students.

Death toll hits 290 as Colombia probes cause of mudslides
Mocoa, Colombia (AFP) April 5, 2017
The number of people killed in southern Colombia's massive mudslides climbed to 290 on Wednesday, as officials investigated how the horrific disaster might have been prevented. In addition to the dead, 332 people were injured in landslides that buried the Colombian town of Mocoa after flooding caused by days of torrential rains. The mudslides occurred Friday after heavy rains caused thre ... read more

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