Thai military drops plan to exhume corpse for DNA testing

Mariyam Ahmad
Pattani, Thailand
Thai military drops plan to exhume corpse for DNA testing A soldier speaks to a group of villagers in Su-ngai Padi, a district in Narathiwat, Thailand, regarding efforts to dig up a corpse to conduct DNA testing, Dec. 11, 2022.
Courtesy relatives of Yahree Dueloh

The identity of a dead man found in a river on the Thai-Malaysia border in September will remain in question after a Thai family barred military efforts to dig up his body to conduct a DNA test.

The widow of Yahree Dueloh, who was identified by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) as a senior member of the insurgent group, said she identified the bloated body from a distinctive scar. Military officials, however, claimed fingerprints did not match and results of a first DNA test were inconclusive.

The powerful separatist group BRN claims Yahree, 42, also known as Zahri Bin Abdullah, was allegedly kidnapped from Malaysia and killed by Thai officials. But Thailand denied the allegation and claimed the body did not undergo a proper autopsy process to determine its identity.

On Saturday, military, police and forensic experts had to back off from a cemetery in Su-ngai Padi, a district in Narathiwat, because Yahree’s family barred them from digging up the body for a DNA test.

“It’s OK to not dig up the body. We already had followed the law and it showed it was not him,” Lt. Gen. Santi Sakuntanak, the southern army commander, told BenarNews on Monday.

Santi said the law requires that a dead person must be processed and identified using proper forensic science techniques. In October, he had said fingerprints taken from the corpse showed it was not Yahree, so he would like to perform an additional DNA test.

“According to the law we have to dig up the corpse and identify to whom it belongs – just in case his relatives might be looking for him,” Santi said. “I don’t know why they rejected our request. If it was not her husband … I don’t know why they want to keep the body.”

Yahree’s widow, Nuraining Deromae, said on Saturday the matter of the corpse’s identity had ended.

On Monday, she told BenarNews: “The body belonged to my husband, so I took it for funeral rites. I don’t want anything else out of this.”

Previously, Nuraining had called for the prosecution of the alleged killers. The corpse, which allegedly showed signs of torture, was recovered on Sept. 29 and kept at Su-ngai Kolok Hospital’s morgue.

During her second visit to the hospital on Oct. 3, Nuraining identified a scar on the corpse’s leg that she said resembled one on Yahree’s body.

The family took and buried the body at Pahong Guepus cemetery in Su-ngai Padi before a proper DNA test could be performed, officials said.

Police said that they needed a bone marrow sample for a proper DNA test to be performed at the Prince of Songkla University’s hospital. The rotten tissues from the bloated body were not acceptable for the test, said police Col. Prushaya Baiteh, chief of Sungai Kolok station.

Another senior police official said the case is not finished because of the partial original autopsy.

“The principal autopsy was not complete because the dead person was not identified,” said police Lt. Gen. Nanthadej Yoinual, whose jurisdiction covers Deep South police forces. He declined to say what other steps authorities could take to identify the corpse.


Authorities allege Yahree went into hiding in Malaysia, adding he was wanted on a series of crimes including arson and carjacking in Narathiwat four or five years ago.

BRN alleged that Yahree was abducted by a group of Thai security forces from a small town in Rantau Panjang subdistrict in the Malaysian state of Kelantan near the Thai border.

The Thai military denied having a role in the abduction while police largely remained silent on the investigation.

“We have tried to find the culprits but have been unsuccessful so far,” a police detective who asked to not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media told BenarNews on Monday. The detective declined to give details about the investigation.

Since the separatist insurgency reignited in the Deep South in January 2004, at least 7,344 people have died and 13,641 have been injured in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to data through March 2022 by Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

Government and BRN officials began Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations in early 2020. These talks followed years of negotiations between the government and MARA Patani, an umbrella group that brought together Deep South insurgent groups, including BRN.


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