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Thailand’s military faces mounting pressure to explain the murky death of a teenage army cadet, whose case has seized national attention after his parents discovered his organs were mysteriously removed from his body.
An autopsy performed on the organs revealed haemorrhaging in the young man’s spleen and liver, which could mean the cadet was beaten before he died and could be linked to why the organs were removed, reported Bangkok Post.
The army said first-year cadet, Pakapong Tanyakan, died of heart failure on Oct.17 at his army training school outside Bangkok. But his family was skeptical and ordered a second autopsy — only to find their son’s brain, heart, bladder, and stomach were missing.
The shocking discovery sparked public outcry and accusations of a cover-up by a military trailed by allegations of beatings and other abuse against young recruits that can turn fatal. The army has continued to deny foul play in Pakapong’s case, saying doctors removed his organs for further inspection and were not required to inform his family, reported AFP
However, Pakapong‘s sister, Supicha Tanyakan spoke at a press conference yesterday in Chonburi to address the new organ autopsy findings from the Army Institute of Pathology of Phramongkutklao Hospital.
Though the military hospital originally said that he died of a sudden heart attack, results from testing of the liver and spleen show haemorrhaging and a broken rib indicative of an assault.
Though CPR was done on the cadet to try to save his life, Phramongkutklao doctors admitted that this would not have affected his spleen and liver.
Military doctors also claimed that the young man suffered from cardiomegaly, which causes an enlarged heart, but his sister claimed he had a check-up less than a week before his death, on Oct. 13, that showed a normal heart.
This case has unsettled thousands in the nation, many of whom have signed an online petition calling for the resignation of the cadet’s commanders.
On Friday, a government spokesman said four military officers had been transferred while an investigation is ongoing.
“To help cope with all sides’ uneasiness, the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters has transferred officers who are involved with this case so that they will not interfere with the evidence or witnesses,” Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.
He added that junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha was “deeply sorry” to hear about the cadet’s death.
The case has unleashed an outpouring of grievances online, with netizens calling for an end to corporal punishment in the military.
“My son wanted to be a soldier but after seeing this news, he lost his confidence,” Bumbim Kanyaplak posted on Facebook.
Pakapong’s family told reporters their son had described physical abuse throughout his time at the school, including a hazing exercise that led him to faint in August.
He also described being punched in the stomach in a diary entry in May.
Thailand’s military, which has run the country since a 2014 coup, runs an annual draft that brings 100,000 men into the armed forces every year.
There have been at least three reported cases of conscripts dying during training this year.
Speaking to the press earlier this week, Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan admitted that physical punishment is a part of military training, saying he had gone through the ordeal himself.
“But I didn’t die,” he added.
Prawit apologized for the remarks on Friday, saying they were insensitive to the cadet’s family.