could expose as to what ails the policies of the government
of Thailand with regard to the crisis in Southern Thailand
than the proposed “arrest on arrival” of the 131 asylum
seekers. In August 2005, the asylum seekers fled from Narathiwat
to Malaysia fearing attacks from the government troops.
The incident triggered a diplomatic standoff between Malaysia
and Thailand. Earlier, on 21-22 November 2005, Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohammad visited Thailand and met former Thai Prime Minister
Anand Panyarachun, the head of the Thai National Reconciliation
Commission to ease the stand-off.
However, the decision of the government of Thailand to take the asylum
seekers for socalled reeducation, tantamount to putting
them under arrest. They
are likely to face interrogation as the Thai government
officials suspect them leaving the country at the instigation
of the insurgents to allegedly internationalise the Southern
Thailand crisis. Torture, which is routine in Thailand,
cannot be ruled out.
The proposed return of the Thai asylum seekers requires immediate
intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
and National Human Rights Commission of Thailand to ensure
that Thailand government does not put their under arrest.
The government of Malaysia also must not forcibly repatriate the
asylum seekers and must ensure the involvement of the UNHCR
or International Committee of the Red Cross to verify the
status of the returnee asylum seekers.
It is clear that the officials of the government of
Thailand obviously have little respect for the 1997 Constitution
of Thailand , especially Section 36 which provides that:
person shall enjoy the liberty of travelling and the liberty
of making the choice of his or her residence within the
Kingdom. The restriction on such liberties under paragraph
one shall not be imposed except by virtue of the law specifically
enacted for maintaining the security of the State, public
order, public welfare, town and country planning or welfare
of the youth.
person of Thai nationality shall be deported or prohibited
from entering the Kingdom”.
Article 12(1) of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR) also states, “Everyone lawfully
within the territory of a State shall, within that territory,
have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose
Over 1,000 people have been killed in
southern Thailand since the conflict began in early 2004.
Thailand stills talks of “reeducation”, in a la communist
style. The crisis in Southern Thailand is simply not a communist
movement which can be crushed aside or resolved through
Thailand has abysmally failed.
Initially, Thailand sought to identify the attacks of the insurgents
as another “Al-Queda” movement. As media covered the issues,
the lack of development of the Southern region came out
to the open. The impunity given to the security forces especially
for the massacre of 78
unarmed protesters who were in the custody of security forces
on 26 October 2004 has not helped. The law and order approach
and imposition of emergency meant that gross human rights
violations by the security forces only intensified the insurgency.
On 28 March 2005, the government
established the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC).
It has also failed to make any breakthrough until today.
Its Chairman Anand Panyarachun urged Malaysia to show more understanding about the
insurgency and not to support demand for autonomy.
It is clear that Thailand
suffers from amnesia about the existence of Pattani United
Liberation Organisation (PULO), an armed opposition group
of the ethnic Malays in Southern Thailand which has been
active since 1960s but remained dormant until January 2004.
In government’s official lexicon, the PULO does not exist. The government of Thailand immediately
denied holding secret talks with PULO
from 24-27 August 2005 in Geneva.
Unless Thailand recognises
the political dimensions of the problem in Southern Thailand
and existence of the PULO, urging Malaysia alone is unlikely
to resolve the crisis. It is Thailand’s problem and the
Malay minorities are completely different cattle of fish
from the hill tribes of Northern Thailand.
The sooner Thailand sheds
its amnesia on the PULO and accepts autonomy, federalism,
cultural and religious freedoms,
and equitable economic development as issues needed
to be addressed by heterogeneous societies, the solutions
to the Southern Thailand crisis would be easier to find.
Until then, Southern Thailand is all set to bleed. Reeducation
of 131 asylum seekers who fled to escape atrocities by security
forces is unlikely to help.