Documentary film ‘His name is Ashaari’ by a group of independent filmmakers highlights the case of a young Malay-Muslim man who was beaten to death by military officers during one night in custody in Yala. His mother, together with local human rights organizations, has spent five years fighting for justice.
On July 21, 2007, a group of young Malay-Muslim men were arrested by security officers on suspicion of causing unrest in Krong Pinang District, Yala Province. They were taken into custody by the military. One of them, 25-year-old Ashaari Sama-ae, died in hospital after being detained for one night. The doctor said he suffered severe contusions to the head and chest.
Ashaari’s mother, Baedoh Sama-ae, shocked by her son’s death, set out on a journey to find truth and justice. Together with local human rights organizations, she filed multiple lawsuits against the authorities for torturing her son to death, an accusation the military denied.
Five years have passed, and starting as a woman who can speak only broken Thai and barely knew how to drive a car, Baedoh has fought complicated legal processes until in June last year, an administrative court inquest ruled that Ashaari had died as a result of the actions of security officers, and ordered the Prime Minister’s Officer to pay his family compensation of 500,000 baht.
The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre ordered compensation of 5 million baht for Baedoh, while the Prime Minister’s Office appealed the court order.
A documentary film “His Name is Ashaari” tells the story of Baedoh’s struggle after her son was beaten to death in Thailand’s troubled Deep South, which has cost over 5,000 lives in the past nine years.
“I didn’t get up and fight to bring Ashaari back to life, or because I wanted the compensation,” said Baedoh through a translator. “But I want our story to set an example,” adding that she was still deeply saddened and compensation could not help.
She said that the death of Ashaari cost the family its future. They had pinned their hopes on Ashaari becoming the breadwinner after he graduated to support the younger children in the family. The community also mistakenly believed that the family was criminal.
Nualnoi Thammasathien, a journalist-cum-filmmaker from FT Media group who produced the documentary, said she wanted to shed light on Thailand’s justice system which ordinary people can hardly access. Torture is still prevalent in Thailand’s Deep South, but not many victims are prepared to step forward and fight for justice, and when dissatisfaction increases it adds fuel to the conflict in the region, she said.
Nualnoi said injustice is beyond Buddhist vs Muslim, or Thai vs Malayu, but it is about humanity and righteousness. Society should recognize the problem in the justice system, help scrutinize it and become a part of the resolution to the conflict, said Nualnoi.
Full documentary film "His Name is Ashaari"