BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's junta on Thursday denied accusations of torturing suspects in a bombing investigation, as human rights groups stepped up their criticism of the military regime.
Lawyers for four suspects in a March 7 grenade attack outside Bangkok Criminal Court said their clients alleged they were punched and tortured with electrical shocks to try to get them to confess. The grenade caused minor damage and no casualties.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said a statement that the allegations of torture in military custody heightened concern about abuses while the country remains under martial law, imposed last May.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called for a prompt and impartial investigation.
Junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree called the torture allegations false, saying they were made to discredit authorities. He said the torture claims were one-sided and that the suspects needed to be examined by medical personnel to prove their claims.
The junta, which ousted an elected government in May last year, finds itself increasingly on the defensive. It initially promised to restore calm after Bangkok was wracked by months of raucous and often violent political street protests, and institute political and economic reforms, especially targeting corruption.
Calm has been restored, but authorities have mostly clamped down on dissent. Efforts to make a new constitution less democratic also have drawn criticism, even from parties sympathetic to last year's army takeover.
Earlier this week, Winthai initially denied reports that the army had secretly detained a witness to the fatal shooting of anti-government protesters in 2010, allegedly by troops. He backtracked the next day, saying that the woman had been held but it was kept secret to aid in the investigation of her alleged links to the March 7 grenade attack.