Bangkok, Thailand – Just a few hours after Yutthana became Saisa in the northeast arrested Thailand last month, the 33-year-old was dead.
Seven soldiers were taken up with his younger brother on suspicion of drug crime and brought the two men for questioning to a small Buddhist temple nearby.
The seven men are reported to have interrogated him allegedly by force to force a confession and inflict wounds that would kill him.
"This case shows the use of extreme violence, including kidnapping," said Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, director of the Cross Cultural Foundation, an organization working in Thailand for justice and human rights surveillance.
The Thai military has long been exposed to allegations of abuse, including the treatment of young recruits who are drafted into the armed forces each year. It has long disputed the indictment, but Yutthana's brutal death again raised questions about whether the military has a systemic abuse problem.
Pornpen has been researching military abuse for decades. She says the military has stepped up anti-drug operations since the 2014 coup. A move she considers dangerous because it further increases the risk of excessive use of violence.
"It's not just a culture of violence, it's a culture of impunity," she said.
The Thai military did not respond to multiple requests for comments, but a police investigation was initiated to determine what happened to Yutthana and the seven soldiers who the A military probe is suspected of involvement.
Young men are drafted into the military in an annual lottery. [File: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]
Local media reports say that the military also paid Yutthana's father compensation and paid 10,000 Thai baht ($ 313) for his son's funeral while the soldiers suspected of playing a role in Yutthana's death was ordered to ask for the family's forgiveness.
Analysts say the violence stems from the military's own toxic training programs, in which officers routinely chase low-ranking cadets to demonstrate their power and create an atmosphere that enables abusive behavior.
Chatri, a 27-year-old student who preferred to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisals, remembered an overwhelming feeling of fear as soon as he entered the barracks that would soon become his home.
Just a few weeks earlier, he had been looking forward to continuing his education with the goal of becoming a social worker. But Chatri's life changed when he was forced to register after being drawn in the lottery for Thailand's military draft .
"When I went to the military, I knew I had to be calm," he said to Al Jazeera. "My life was taken away."
Chatri is an openly gay man.
"When people see me, they can see that I am. So I decided not to hide."
But this decision had consequences, he explained.
The moment when he realized that he would be a target was when three noncommissioned officers told him to be stripping naked in front of them the first day of training The subsequent abuse was so bad that over the next few months he considered suicide as a way to escape the agony.
Although conscripts often tell stories about physical violence and torture, Chatri was never beaten. Instead, he was sexually abused by senior citizens and non-commissioned officers.
Amnesty International has also recently uncovered abuse within the military. Her new report " We were just toys for her " found that conscripts were subject to harassment, beatings, and sexual abuse. The researchers found "a flood of physical violence, humiliation, and sexual abuse that often amounts to torture," as part of military training programs.
The military played a prominent role in Thai life for a long time when the armed forces launched numerous coups. [Stringer/AP Photo]
For Chatri, the report brought back vivid memories.
Officials touched him inappropriately and "approached me whenever they wanted," said Chatri. "You would normalize it."
On a particularly shocking night, he was abused by five coaches. On another occasion, he had to strip naked.
"I remember thinking at that moment: & # 39; Why is this happening to me? & # 39; I could not have imagined that my life would be like this," he said. "I was so scared. But if I didn't, it could be worse."
After three months of training, Chatri called his sister and asked her to use her family relationships to get him out of the training program as soon as possible. He was lucky, he said. Most other young men didn't have this option.
Request for investigation
Human Rights Watch has long monitored the abuse culture of the military and is now calling on the authorities to investigate Yutthana's death. The rights group says the Thai government should prevent further military abuse by revoking wide-ranging powers that allow military personnel to arrest, arrest, and interrogate suspected drug users and traffickers.
"Thailand has a long history of violent drug wars, particularly during the Thaksin government, which killed over 2,800 people," said Sunai Phasuk, Thailand researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Now PM Prayuth (Chan-ocha) is following these bloody steps."
Thaksin was notorious for a ruthless anti-drug campaign that allegedly resulted in thousands of state-sanctioned murders in 2003. Researchers say that many of the deceased were civilians and were not involved in drug trafficking.
Sunai added that Thailand's anti-drug laws are used as a tool for the military to use abusive tactics in raids. He said reports of extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests were "piling up" across the country and "proceeding without accountability." He pointed to a case from 2017 in which a young activist was shot and killed by soldiers for alleged drug possession and security material was missing as an example.
In recent cases, the military, like Yutthana, has offered victims or their families financial compensation in return for their consent to none prosecute. Even when families choose to practice justice, police investigations are either hindered, poorly or completely covered up, Sunai said.
And all of these incidents continue to occur, although Thailand is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or punishment.
After Chatri has considered the abuse, he still feels that the situation could have been worse.
"It was bad, but my training session is still better than others because nobody has died," he said.
It is not uncommon for military cadets to be found dead under mysterious circumstances because physical punishment and dangerous harassment rituals are commonplace in the Cadet School are say human rights guards. Although it is difficult to determine the exact number of deaths in a given year, analysts say multiple cases occur each year based on local media reports and family complaints.
And although Chatri has now left the armed forces, he fears for the other young men who are now taking his place.
"We have to end this kind of culture," he said in an emotional voice. "We have to stop giving them so much power."