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Amnesty Urges End To Security Forces'

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Amnesty urges end to security forces' abuses in Thai south

BANGKOK (AFP) - Amnesty International has urged Thailand to investigate alleged abuses by security forces in restive Muslim-majority provinces and end their immunity from prosecution.

The global human rights watchdog, in a report released as the unrest enters its third year, said Bangkok needed to remove the immunity granted security forces under a controversial emergency decree in order to win the trust of conflict-weary villagers.

Since the unrest began with a raid on a weapons depot by suspected Islamic militants on January 4, 2004, the Thai authorities response has included "arbitrary detention, torture, and excessive lethal force," Amnesty said.

"They have also failed to properly investigate attacks against both Buddhist and Muslim civilians," it said.

"Young Muslim men have been 'blacklisted' and assumed guilty with no reason given" while people detained are often denied access to a lawyer or interpreter," Amnesty said.

The group said Bangkok must investigate "all reports of human rights abuses, whether attacks on civilians by armed groups or violations committed by the security forces."

"Those found responsible must be brought to justice. Current laws which give complete immunity to security forces must be changed to allow for prosecution."

The London-based group said residents increasingly felt unprotected from the ongoing violence which has claimed more than 1,000 lives in two years, including 20 people who were beheaded.

"Clearly the Thai government is facing a great challenge in dealing with the violence, but it has responsibilities towards its citizens and needs to ensure justice is done," Amnesty said.

"Leaders of armed groups must instruct those under their command not to attack civilians or their property under any circumstances, and publicly condemn such attacks."

The emergency decree, which was enacted in July 2005, was renewed for three months in October and is set to expire on January 19, Amnesty added.

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