Asian Centre for Human Rights

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[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for 27 April 2005
Review: /70/05
Mr Shinawatra, accountability is the issue
Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested then loaded onto a handful of military trucks and driven for several hours to an army camp.

After a landslide victory in the elections held in January 2005, on 28 March 2005 Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra formed 48-member National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) to deal with the crisis in Southern Thailand consisting of Yala, Satun, Songkhla, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces. The election results of the Thai Rak Thai party of Prime Minister Shinawatra in Southern Thailand have been dismal. It is clear that Shinawatra has lost the trust of the Muslim minorities in the country.

Related Links:

KRUE SE MOSQUE INCIDENT: MILITANTs met to plan attack, 26 April 2005

Tak Bai Report, 26 April 2005

... More

National Reconciliation Commission:

The success of the National Reconciliation Commission headed by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun is paramount and its failure would intensify the conflict. Prominent social critic Prawase Wasi has been elected as the Vice Chairman. The NRC comprises 16 representatives from the civic sector in the affected areas, 11 representatives from the civic sector outside the affected areas, 7 from the political parties and 9 from public sector. The Secretary of the Cabinet serves as member and secretary, with well-known academics Gothom Areeya and Surichai Wankaew as co-members and secretaries.

In an important step on 24 April 2005, the National Reconciliation Commission  released the censored version of the government appointed panels’ reports on the extra-judicial executions of 32 alleged armed Muslim insurgents at the historic Kru Se mosque in Pattani on 28 April 2004 and killing of 78 unarmed and arrested protesters in the custody of security forces on 26 October 2004. Chairman of the Commission Punyacharun justified the panel’s censorship in the name of protecting the rights and safety of witnesses and preventing negative effects on its reconciliation efforts. Some members of the Commission like Senator Sophon Suphapong and Muslim leader Paisarn Phromyong, however, did not agree with Anand that the reports in its entirety will have adverse impact on the ongoing reconciliation efforts. 

Krue Se and Tak Bai massacres:

In one of the bloodiest actions by the security forces, 107 persons, mostly teenagers were killed and 17 others were arrested on 28 April 2004. The killed youth, mostly armed with machetes and only a few carrying assault rifles, allegedly battled policemen and soldiers in Pattani, Yala and Songkhla. More than 30 were killed inside the historic Krue Se Mosque alone on the outskirts of Pattani in Narathiwat province.

In the other gruesome incident on 26 October 2004, at least 78 Muslim protesters were suffocated or crushed to death after being arrested and packed into trucks by security forces for transportation to military barracks in Pattani, the provincial capital of Narathiwat. Following the siege of a police station in Tak Bai district by a 2000 strong mob demanding the release of 6 detainees, the security forces resorted to firing to quell the protesters. Six protestors reportedly died on the spot and several others were believed to have been injured in the firing on 25 October 2004. The military officials had arrested at least 1300 persons and loaded in army vehicles and transported to Pattani.  Manit Suthaporn, deputy permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, said that the victims probably suffocated because they were piled on top of each other in the vehicles. Depicting the gruesome ordeal, one of the detainees, Ismael Jeh-ali stated that he had been among 80 people piled up in three layers in one of the military trucks. Every time they moved their heads, soldiers responded by hitting them with the butt of their rifles, possibly in fear of a mass mutiny.

Inquiry panel reports:

The government set up inquiry commissions into both the incidents in the wake of national and international outcry.

The probe panel into the Krue Se mosque headed by Suchinda Yongsunthron, a former constitution judge found that the security forces did not use peaceful means to end the standoff and described the killings as an overreaction by the security forces. The inquiry commission observed that the circumstances at the mosque were not so overwhelming that troops had to resort to “excessive force.” The panel also found that the bodies of the slain militants were not examined in accordance with judicial procedures.

The committee headed by Pichet Soontornpipit that investigated the death of the 78 protesters at Tak Bai also reported that there were serious dereliction of duty on the part of senior military officials like Lt-General Pisarn, the highest authority of the area under martial law, Maj-General Chalermchai Wiroonphet, then commander of the Fifth Infantry Division, Maj-General Sinchai Nutsatit, the then deputy commander of the Fourth Army Region.

Accountability is the issue:

While the release of the inquiry panel reports have been welcome by some of the Muslim minorities in Southern Thailand, the lack of accountability for such gross and widespread human rights violations is unlikely to promote national reconciliation. Prime Minister Thaksin refused to condemn the action in Tak Bai despite clear evidence of the use of disproportionate force. Until today, not a single security official has been given punishment for the atrocities being perpetrated in the Southern Thailand since the latest insurgency began.

Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun and other members of the National Reconciliation Commission must realize that accountability for blatant violations of human rights is indispensable for reconciliation and they must press for the same. Mere releasing of reports, which indicate culpability of certain officials, cannot promote national reconciliation without action against the guilty officials.

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