NARATHIWAT — A southern army volunteer has confessed to shooting a 14-year-old Muslim boy and then planting a firearm in his hand to falsely frame the teenager as an insurgent.
Ranger Ekkapoj Samansuan claimed he heard gunshots near his outpost in Sri Sakorn district of Narathiwat province on the night of 21 August, leading him to fire his weapon at a group of teenagers who were riding their motorcycles past the outpost at the time, officials said in a press conference today.
Mr. Ekkapoj later inspected the scene and after seeing that an unarmed boy was shot dead by the gunfire, planted an unregistered 11 mm. handgun in his hand, said Pol.Maj.Gen. Pattanawut Angkanawin, a police commander in Narathiwat province.
Narathiwat is one of Thailand's three southern border provinces that have been plagued by Islamic separatist violence for the past decade.
"He wanted to create a scene that showed there was shooting between [the insurgents] and the security officers," Pol.Maj.Gen. Pattanawut said.
The Ranger has been charged with manslaughter, premeditated murder, possession of an unregistered firearm, and creating false evidence.
Maj.Gen. Singhasak Uthaimongkol, a military commander based in the restive southern province, insisted that authorities will "uphold the laws" in their handling of the case.
Despite the severity of the case, Mr. Ekkapoj will be allowed to keep his post in the area until the court delivers a verdict, Maj.Gen. Singhasak said.
Mr. Ekkapoj's confession followed protests by local community leaders and relatives of the murdered boy over the suspicious circumstances of the 14-year-old’s death. The authorities initially implied that he was affiliated with the insurgent groups that have been waging a bloody separatist campaign against security forces in the region.
In an effort to assist the boy’s family and regain the trust of local residents, the authorities will donate 500,000 baht in compensation money to the parents of the deceased, said Suphanat Siranthawineti, deputy governor of Naratiwat province.
There is no immediate reaction from the boy's family.
Over 6,000 people have died in the separatist violence that has terrorised the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani since 2004. Several groups of Islamic insurgents seeking autonomy from the Thai state are thought to be behind many of the attacks targeted at Buddhist civilians and security officers, though there have also been cases of revenge attacks on Muslims by Buddhist vigilantes.
Human rights activists have criticised the military's occasionally heavy-handed approach to stamping out violence in the southern border provinces, as well as their reliance on Rangers, many of whom are volunteers armed by the authorities.
In March, two Rangers confessed to shooting three boys dead and wounding their parents to seek revenge for one of their family members in Narathiwat province.