- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BANGKOK (AP) - The U.N. human rights agency on Tuesday called on Thailand to immediately close a military detention center where two high-profile prisoners died in controversial circumstances over the past month.

A statement from the U.N. Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called on the country’s ruling junta to stop using military facilities to hold civilian detainees.

The U.N. appeal follows the deaths in custody of two people arrested on charges of insulting the monarchy by claiming to be representing the royal palace for their own financial benefit. One was said to have died by suicide and the other from blood poisoning, but their bodies were hurriedly cremated, raising suspicions of a cover-up of inadequate care, if not abuse.

Thailand’s military government has made safeguarding the monarchy a priority and has vigorously prosecuted alleged insults to the monarchy, a crime known as lese majeste that is punishable by 3 to 15 years imprisonment.

The military, which seized power from a civilian government last year, in September designated an army base on the outskirts of Bangkok as a venue to detain individuals on charges related to national security and other special cases. It mandated military trials for several offenses, including lese majeste, soon after taking power.

“The use of a military barracks as a detention facility is prone to human rights violations, including torture,” the U.N. statement quoted Matilda Bogner, the right’s agency’s regional representative, as saying.

The U.N. office also called for a thorough investigation into the two deaths, explaining in its statement that “an independent and impartial investigation would clarify the circumstances of the deaths, ensure accountability and help prevent further similar incidents.”

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