Thai Probe Says Muslim Human Rights Violated
Thai soldiers are accused of paying little, if any, respect to human rights.
BANGKOK, May 5, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Thai police forces who handled the Tak Bai protest, causing the death of dozens of Muslim protestors, “ignored” the constitution and the basic human rights, a Thai rights group said Thursday, 5 May, as the PM hinted at lifting martial law in the Muslim south.
After a four-month investigation, a sub-panel of the National Human Rights Commission (HRC) said police resorted to violence to break up the protest and “lacked the tact and patience required to achieve peaceful conflict resolution”, the Bangkok Post reported.
The Thai report comes a week after two independent investigations into the deaths of nearly 200 Thai Muslims last year, published Monday, April 25, accused
security forces of excessive use of force and negligence.
The investigation into the Tak Bai protest -- when 87 Muslim protestors died, mainly of suffocation when they were detained, bound and then piled onto military trucks -- found security forces poorly trained to deal with protesters.
“The probe found that senior officials were negligent and ignorant, allowing low-ranking officials who had no experience and who only wanted to finish their mission to take charge of the transportation.”
The other independent probe, concerning the massacre of the centuries-old Krue Se mosque which was stormed by security forces on April 28 last year, also accused the government of not giving a chance for negotiations.
Commissioner Khunying Amporn Meesuk, head the sub-panel, told the daily that extensive field trips and in-depth interviews showed that the whole process had failed to meet human rights standards upheld by the constitution and governed by international conventions.
This includes treatment of protesters, crowd control, dispersal of protesters, detention of suspects, damage compensation and prosecution of suspects,
Live bullets were used and protesters were assaulted while in detention, she added.
Eighty-seven people were killed October 25 during and after the protest outside the district police station in Narathiwat, as the protestors hands were bound, making them defenceless, and they were piled on military trucks, where dozens suffocated.
According to the paper, 58 people have been charged till now with the so-called “instigating the Tak Bai uprising”, though human rights advocates insist many were merely onlookers.
HRC chairman Saneh Chammarik said the commission backed suggestions by NRC members that the government drop charges against the Tak Bai suspects, charges that appeared to have been pressed randomly.
“So, it’s possible that we will lift the martial law,” Thaksin said.
Thai soldiers, on their part, told the sub-panel they had been trained to treat protesters taken to the army camp as prisoners, Meesuk told the daily, adding that they were only obeying orders and their actions, while deemed cruel by others, seemed normal to them.
But she said that soldiers should not blindly follow orders and ought to exercise their own judgement where needed, adding that their attitude was wrong and should not be encouraged.
“'People victimised swallow the bitterness and bottle it up. The pain cuts deep and it is dangerous,” she said.
The sub-panel also found that the 1,000-plus people who turned up prior to the riot came for different reasons, the Post reported.
“Some wanted to demand justice for community defence volunteers they believed were unfairly arrested while others were businessmen and ordinary people drawn to the scene by sheer curiosity.”
Security forces sealed off the area to contain the protest and innocent people were trapped, the paper added quoting the report.
“'This is when so many fathers and children perished, went missing, were maimed or persecuted,” said Chammarik.
The sub-panel, which will send its report to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the National Reconciliation Commission and the committee considering compensation for victims of the southern violence, recommended that the government offers victims compensation, reviews southern security and declares it is against the use of force to ease tension.
Martial Law Lift
In another development, Shinawatra -- under fire for his heavy-handed anti-Muslim policy -- said his government was considering lifting martial law imposed on much of southern Thailand since January 2004.
The head of the National Reconciliation Commission tasked with coming up with a peace plan for the region, respected former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, had suggested that martial law be lifted as a gesture of reconciliation, Thaksin said Thursday according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“Former prime minister Anand said that martial law has created negative sentiment overseas, so he asked if government could use other legal means. So it’s possible that we will lift the martial law,” Thaksin told reporters.
“But in some sensitive areas, authorities still need the power to search and arrest without warrants, but we could use another law for that,” he said.
Martial law gives military authorities expanded powers including the ability to search and arrest without warrants, to impose states of emergency and to enforce curfews.
Thaksin said the government would consider whether other laws could be passed to give authorities limited martial law powers while officially declaring a return to normal rule.
“We may review the martial law declaration and replace it with a new law, because martial law gives us vast powers but we have actually used only a little of it.”
Critics at home and abroad have accused Thaksin's government of using heavy-handed tactics against Thai Muslims.
In a recent statement, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed “serious dissatisfaction at the persisting bloody acts of violence perpetrated against Muslims in southern Thailand”.
Thaksin vowed on Thursday, February 17, to crush
“separatist revolt” in the south within four years, saying his government would cut off aid to villages who help the “separatists”.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation but Muslims make up about five percent of the population.
They mostly live in the five southern provinces bordering Malaysia.
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the only Muslim majority provinces in Thailand, where Muslims have long complained of
discrimination in jobs and education and business opportunities.