BANGKOK • Thai police are seeking 10 soldiers over the fatal beating of a 22-year-old army conscript in a military prison, as the ruling junta races to limit damage from the latest abuse scandal to hit the armed forces.
The April 1 death emerged just as officers launched an annual draft that will see some 100,000 men aged 21 and above conscripted into the military for up to two years.
Private Yutthakinun Boonniam died one day after he was brought to hospital from the army prison in southern Surat Thani province.
Doctors said he suffered kidney failure after a sustained beating by a hard object.
Images purportedly of the victim circulated on social media showed his face swollen nearly beyond recognition.
His mother told local media her son was beaten in the military prison for minor disciplinary offences including oversleeping and missing guard duty.
"Police have submitted the evidence and names of five army officers and five privates... to ask for arrest warrants against them," Surat Thani's police chief Apichart Boonsrirote told AFP yesterday.
"Based on the police's investigation, they are involved with the victim's death," he added.
The death is a public relations disaster for the army as it draws on young Thai conscripts to fill its ranks.
Thailand's army chief moved quickly to condemn the death and assure the public of a swift and impartial investigation.
But human rights groups have slammed the incident as the latest example of torture and abuse in the Thai military, which has run the country since a 2014 coup.
"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".