Thailand's Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld life sentences for treason and other crimes given to four men for leading a Muslim separatist movement. Prosecutors said the four belonged to the Pattani United Liberation Organization, the main separatist movement in southern Thailand in the 1970s and 1980s.
The men were arrested in 1998, reportedly turned over secretly by authorities in neighboring Malaysia. They were found guilty on several charges including treason, illegal possession of weapons and other crimes and sentenced to death in 2002. The sentences were immediately commuted to life in prison.
Other separatist groups have emerged since then, giving birth to a new wave of violent separatism, which has claimed more than 1,100 lives in the past two years.
The four convicts, Buedo Babomae, Dahood Thanam, Abdul Rahman Kadir and Samahae Thanam, had all been identified as top members of the separatist group, which in its heyday commanded at least several hundred guerillas.
"The appeals court upheld the sentences of life imprisonment for the four defendants but I will pursue the case in the Supreme Court," defense lawyer Vithaya Buranasilp told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Prosecutors charged that the four men were leaders of a Muslim movement that had sought to form an independent state in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Buddhist-dominated Thailand. The defendants were taken back to a maximum security prison outside Bangkok, where they have been held since 1998.
The Pattani United Liberation Organization's power and influence waned after the government offered an amnesty to Muslim separatists in the late 1980s.
A new wave of separatist violence beginning in January last year has been more deadly than previous rebellious activities, and authorities have had little success in stopping separatist attacks or arresting and convicting those allegedly behind them, reports the AP. I.L.