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Students petition human rights body to investigate death of military cadet at school

Nov 27. 2017
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By THE NATION

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A GROUP of student activists yesterday lodged a petition with the National Human Rights Commission asking for an investigation into the death of teenage cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, who died in October at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

The group representing Free Thammasat for Democracy, the Anti-Sotus Group, Chulalongkorn Community for the People and Law Long Beach Third Way Thailand submitted their appeal to commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who agreed to look into the matter.

The Anti-Sotus group was organised to oppose student hazing associated with the tradition of “seniority, order, tradition, unity, spirit” associated with Thai universities.

The commission should investigate the training and punishment in military schools and camps, as there had been many deaths in recent years, the group said in a statement. 

Severe punishment was a violation of human rights, which the National Human Rights Commission was obligated to investigate, it added. 

Phakhapong, 18, died on October 17. An autopsy performed by the military-run Phramongkutklao Hospital concluded that he had died of sudden cardiac arrest, but his family did not believe the finding and asked the Justice Ministry’s Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) to conduct another autopsy. 

The CIFS examination sparked a new controversy after it was found that Phakhapong’s internal organs had been removed, increasing suspicion about his death and practices at the military school.

After a request from the family, the military hospital transferred the cadet’s organs to the CIFS for an autopsy, the results of which are so far unknown. 

The family said on Sunday that a primary analysis of the first autopsy indicated that Phakhapong might have died due to causes other than cardiac arrest. One of the teenager’s ribs was broken and blood was found in his spleen and liver, indicating that he might have been hit with a hard object, the family said on Sunday, citing an anonymous physician. 

After the appeal from the student activists, Angkhana said yesterday the human rights commission would conduct a fact-finding process questioning all concerned parties including the family, the school and forensic experts. 

However, she said the inquiry would take an unspecified amount of time, she said. 

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