THAILAND PEACE REPORT
Title (Draconian Laws, The license to kill)
Introduction: We (AMAN Volunteers) travelled in many areas of Southern Thailand for three days for public hearings. The first day, there was a live bomb on the road side with security force personnel everywhere busy in conducting frisking of vehicles and search operation. Second day while travelling to another village we heard news about the killing of an Imam and two other people by security force personnel. We were told by our guides that these areas have been categorized into three parts, i.e., Green, yellow and Red zone. And we travelled almost all the time through the Red zone, so we were given a complete brief about protocol which we had to follow in all circumstances. The day after the 2nd day, again there was some violence related news that came to us. Perhaps this is the kind of life for every Thai Muslim in Southern Thailand. No one knows when and for what time, and where a violent incident could happen, and every movement will be at a standstill. If we had been able to sit a little longer, we would have heard the same facts, and of course, more mothers and more Parents of Disappeared Persons would have told the same story – a story of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and torture, custodial deaths and rape; all with no hope for justice. There is no denying the fact that the people of the Southern states like Yala and Patani in Thailand have borne the brunt of the extreme violence of the many years, all in the name of security, at the hands of armed forces. We travelled far and wide in many far off places and we could easily make a sketch of the areas of these provinces. We had to pass through innumerable security check points. It seems as if we were in a military garrison with hundreds of military check points and bunkers in every nook and corner. It looks like a virtual massive prison where people live in austere conditions with a little freedom of movement within a complex web where one cannot escape from any route. We were told that our mobile phones will no longer work for being in a disturbed area and further we cannot travel in the evenings, so we had to make our way to the hotel before the sun set.
Conflict Analysis: Looking at the unrest in southern Thailand from the point of view of an outsider, it can be said that the conflict arises from historical and socio-politico grievances fanned by the separatist Malay Muslim movements (i.e., the indigenous people of the Patani land) against the Thai state. This kind of behavior increases as internal repression, external influences and manipulation of local grievances increase. In the long term, unmet psycho-political and socio-economic needs lead to dysfunctional cognitive and behavioral patterns that are not easily remedied by ordinary methods of diplomacy or the use of military force. Thus, this conflict appears to be protracted.
Furthermore, the attitude and behavior of the Thai government seems to be denying basic human needs, identity and security through the roles played by the state in politics, economic and the military in the name of security protection. The Thai state seems to prefer military means to ending the violence. Hence, it may become destructive.
In the context of the Malay Muslim worldview, primacy is given to ethnicity in religion. Hence, the concepts of in-group and out-group are playing an influential role. To some extent, it will be sharpened by stressing the negative stereotypes of the others, and it easily triggers ethnic and social tension in the society. At the same time social trust at the horizontal and grassroots level tends to be fragile and prejudices and hatred are deepening and coloring social interactions in daily life.
Now that the problem of violence in the Deep South has been identified, a commitment to reducing direct violence and lessening or preventing problems in the near future is needed. An answer to the conflict might be provided by the conflict transformation approach, focusing on the Protracted Social Conflict analysis. Identity conflicts can be transformed; that is, redefined in positive win-win terms.
Summary: While analyzing the conflict in the areas of Southern Thailand we found the grave breaches of humanitarian law continued unabated since 2004. Civilian casualties mount and estimates now indicate over 4000 killed since 2004. Casualties include men women and children. Most of these deaths have direct humanitarian law implications: (1) they were perpetrated by military forces of Thailand in the course of the conflict in Southern Thailand; (2) they are not “incidental civilian casualties” and must be viewed as violations of the right to life under humanitarian law.
The Thai authorities have consistently refused permission for independent, international monitoring of the situation in Southern provinces like Yala and Patani . Human rights organizations are routinely denied permission to investigate openly. Although Thai government has permitted a few assessment visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Apparently other organizations have been denied of conducting such open investigation.
The victims whom we met showed unmatched courage to narrate their woeful stories to us despite the clear fear of possible consequences that they might happen with them for telling their stories of sufferings to us , especially in the circumstances where people have lost faith in the remedial and retributive systems.
The southern states of Thailand have been among the most conflictive regions of the Thailand in recent years. The killings and “disappearances” have evinced a strong gendercidal component, with younger men overwhelmingly targeted. The violence has spilled over into the rest of southern states which are predominantly Muslim populated. , most notably with the Massacre in Krue Se Mosque 1997 in which more than 78 people were gunned down by security forces and most of the dead bodies are believed to have been thrown into the sea. This is one of the worst gendercidal slaughters of modern times in Southern Thailand. There was another incident in Tak Bai District of Narathiwat in which 86 Muslims died as a result of demonstration out side the district police station against the jailing of a local muslim accused of inciting violence.
The state of insurgency in Southern Thailand clearly seems to be the outgrowth of increasing discontent in the region, reflecting opposition to Govt. of Thailand for the consistent attempts to interfere in the regional politics and complete discrimination among Muslim population by reducing their representation in every sector from politics to govt. sector .In response to people’s resistant, to muzzle the people’s voices three draconian laws have been instituted i.e, Internal Security Act (ISA), Marshal Law and Emergency Decree. Thailand government has launched a wide spread campaign of systematic murders and disappearances of suspected militants and civilians. According to local people , “The Thai army has been engaged in repeated atrocities on a massive scale in the process of its crackdown. The level of military misdeeds is so high that we can only conclude that it is government policy to terrorize the Muslims into accepting repressive and exploitative rule.”
Thai regular army strategy has relied extensively on extrajudicial murders, which usually “occur after ‘crackdowns’ … during which all the men of a neighborhood or village are called to assemble for an identification parade in front of hooded informers. Those whom the informers point out are taken away for torture and interrogation, and some are simply taken away and shot. Local people reported that “custodial killings — the summary execution of detainees — remain a central component of the Thai army counterinsurgency strategy. While the difficulties associated with documentation make it impossible to state accurately the number of such killings.
“Disappearances” have become a byword of life in Southern Thailand. “Since 2004 more than 100 people have ‘disappeared’ after being arrested by armed or paramilitary forces. The victims have included men of all ages. Almost all of them appear to be ordinary citizens picked up at random, without any connection to the insurgency. “Ironically no Human rights groups in Southern Thailand have documented cases of ‘disappearances’ since 1994. Lawyers believe the number to be far higher, however, as many relatives do not contact a lawyer out of fear of reprisal. Neither the Thai government nor any of the security agencies operating in the state has provided any information to clarify the whereabouts of the victim in any of these cases. It is likely that in virtually all of the cases of ‘disappearances’ in the areas of Southern Thailand, the victims were killed and the body disposed of in secret.” Mostly thrown into the sea.
As in Kashmir and many other countries around the world, the Thai Govt. has sought to dissociate itself to some extent from rampant murders, “disappearances,” and torture by sub-contracting them to death squads sponsored, armed, and assisted by the security forces. The armies participate in joint patrols, receive and carry out orders given by security officers, and operate in full view of army and security force bunkers and camps.
Systematic torture, including sexual torture, has been another standard strategy, “used routinely by all the security forces operating in Southern Thailand. Although the problem is widely known to the authorities in Bangkok, said locals, neither has ever made any serious effort to curb it.” The “severe beatings” that generally feature in such torture may render people handicapped physically and mentally caused by torture as well as the trauma
Rape, especially of women relatives of suspected militants or dissidents, has also been commonly employed by both security forces and their paramilitary allies. But unfortunately the Thai Govt. has never prosecuted any members of security forces for rape. Dozens of rape cases persist in the area of Southern Thailand.” Many local women have been allegedly raped by security forces in the village Lakhan. Residents of the village of Lakhan told Aman workers that, the army conducted a sweep of the village many times abducting many local women. “They are looking for the militants,” the resident reported. “But they are unable to find any. So they harass the local population … Our womenfolk are taken into the army camp, all separately. … They come back after two or three days. They are very shy then, and don’t want to talk about what has happened to them. The army has pressured them not to speak about what happened.”
Disappearance victims are almost always young men who are suspected of being members of insurgent groups, the security force personnel pick them up from place of work or their homes. Often the abduction is done at night, but the disregard for the law and the lack of political will to eradicate these practices means the security forces are equally protected if the abduction takes place in broad daylight. … Many cases of disappearances result in death, disfigured bodies found in canals and roadsides are testimony to the cover-up of state murder that is so much a part of everyday life in some parts of Southern Thailand. If suspicion of the killing is successfully laid at the feet of the police, it is often denied or invalidated by one of two improbable excuses; that whilst trying to escape he was shot or that he died in an encounter.
According to the local women , many young people killed have not been engaged in armed combat. They have been ordinary boys who have disappeared while visiting relatives or while working in their fields, or who have been picked up from their own or their relatives home.
The failure to turn up a sufficient quantity of young men for persecution and execution sometimes leads to the detention of female relatives. Though they are rarely killed, rape is common. “When mothers and sisters have been held in custody by the army, their ultimate fate unknown, not all fathers and brothers have been able to cope with the threat of what might happen to them and to remain underground. . As one old lady from Lakhan village told Aman workers, referring to the many abductions of young men by the security forces, ‘In every village and each house there is sadness.
A typical account of the atrocities was provided by many females as we could find mostly females in the community as most of the men in these areas do not stay at home for the fear of persecution. We have prepared this report on the basis of information given to us by the local population residing in the Yala and Patani provinces. Moreover, we held talks with some civil society members and lawyers to make our report a valid one. But unfortunately we could not talk to the authorities like army and other state administration so we are not able to provide the official version in response to the public grievances. So that part may be found clearly missing in our report.
Militarization: The excessive militarization has resulted in wiping out all space for the exercise of democratic rights by the people, the result being terrorization of the people at large. This has resulted in ruthless action on all dissent, and at the same time the military indulges in acts of violence against people with impunity.
The grievance of the people is that instead of confining the role of the military and security forces to that of external defence and as against insurgents , it is regularly and continuously used for gross human rights violation and `domestic repression; and as local people said : “that the role of army has transformed into a source of deep insecurity for the citizens – as instruments of the persistent violator of human rights and converted the thai military into an illegitimate agent of repression. Both in turn seriously undermine the democratic credential of the state.”
Draconian Laws: Militarization is invariably accompanied by Draconian laws. Together they have such a cascading effect that all human rights and democratic rights get washed away. This is what happened has happened in Southern states of Thailand.
In Southern states of Thailand like Yala and Patani, there are many draconian laws in place that provide special powers and license to security forces to kill or arrest anyone any time. The draconian laws like Internal Security Act, marshal Law and Emergency Decree has been in force for past many years. These Act states that armed forces officers have only to form an “opinion” to consider what may be necessary, and then on the basis of such “opinion” they “can fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing death against any person” and they can “arrest, without warrant any person” and “enter and search without warrant any premises” at any time, and use force to achieve this objective. This Act gives them full protection against any prosecution or legal proceedings in respect of anything done or “purported to be done” in exercise of the powers conferred by these Act. The result is that in all these southern states, arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and custodial deaths, rape and midnight raids into homes and disappearances have become routine.
Disappearances: One other impact of militarization and arbitrary detention is large scale custodial deaths, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. Locals from the southern Thailand clearly established that from about 2004, about 100 – 200 persons have just disappeared. Many of them were killed while in custody of the army or the security men. Whenever and wherever the next of Kin went to the police stations or army camps to enquire, or to claim the bodies, they were either threatened or tortured. Some had to pay bribes to get information. What is important is that there has been no proper investigation to apprehend the culprits and to punish them. The fact remains that no serious investigation was done even by the Central Government. The worst sufferers are women and children.
It is pertinent to mention here that the UN General Assembly in 2006 has unanimously adopted the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Earlier, there was the UN Declaration to the above effect (December 1992). Article 2 of the Declaration says that, “the prohibition” of “disappearances” is absolute and no state can find an excuse. Article 7 says, “no circumstances, whether a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency may be invoked to justify” these acts of violation. Hence, it is not open to the state to resort to enforced disappearances that would include all custodial deaths on the ground of any threat to internal security or external safety and stability. It is here the state’s liability becomes absolute, and we should have no hesitation in making these observations.
Militarized environments expose women to serious forms of dehumanization. The masculinity cult that pervades military establishments are intrinsically anti-female and therefore create a hostile environment for women. Rape becomes a common feature in such a situation. In all such cases there have been no investigations in the areas of Southeren Thailand. There are umpteen complaints of rape and molestation. However, till today no action has been taken against the culprits, despite several reports by various NGO groups.
Apart from such direct abuse, women had to suffer further humiliation. Women in villages of Patani and yala province suffer badly because of the mental trauma and disgrace they had to put up with. These women had also been struggling with physical ailments subsequent to the incident. The self-humiliation resulting from our traumatic experience didn’t allow us to visit any of our relatives from other villages, nor did they pay us a visit. We also had to take our children out from their schools and homes, for fear of being apprehended and tortured by the army.
We must also say that most of the rape cases go unreported mainly due to constant threats from the army men, also due to fear of social stigma and the futility of taking up an embarrassing legal battle and due to the lack of media.
Plight of the Disabled:
Throughout the conflict, people have been maimed and disabled due to the indiscriminate firing of security forces. People have also been disabled during interrogations where torture was used. We heard the testimonies from many local women, where forces had indiscriminately opened fire on people. Many injured persons have been disabled for life and have suffered mentally, physically, and financially. Hardly any steps have been taken for their rehabilitation. No compensation or ex-gratia relief has been given to the kins and kiths of those who were killed by security forces and government agencies portray them as insurgents.
Failure of all Democratic Institutions and Redressal Mechanisms: Routine criminal investigations – a key function of the police – are among the first to deteriorate under militarization. All complaints against the army men just remain without any investigation. As we have mentioned above, under draconian laws , the army can shoot, kill, or do any heinous act, and they get protection and immunity; and the police become helpless. This also leads to a situation where the police acquire a taste for impunity, when they have to work within a military environment. This is exactly what has happened in Southern Thailand. Here, the rules do not operate as laid down in the statute books. For example, we heard testimonies from the victims, that FIRs filed by them were distorted by the police to accuse the victims themselves. In some cases, the police just refuse to record FIRs and the victims remain helpless. The police appear to be not bothered about the complaints from the victims, because they know that no one will question them.
This has also affected the Judiciary. No criminal court could be in a position to do proper justice, with impunity for the actions of the army, and with no investigation being possible by the police. It appears that in Yala and Patani there are dozens of civilians under detention and quite a number of them still continue to be inside, while the Courts remain judicially paralytic. In quite a number of cases where the victim had been killed, the courts have not even awarded any compensation to the next of kin.
1. Withdraw the draconian laws: It is necessary that these draconian laws should be withdrawn forthwith. These laws together with militarization emanate from the notion that the use of force is necessary for the effective ruling of a population. Similar is the belief that Terrorism cannot be eliminated without harsh laws. However, it is our universal experience that nowhere in the world have harsh laws ended terrorism, nor has any militarization succeeded in suppressing insurgency, unless taken to the extreme, developing into a situation of genocide, as in Sri Lanka. It is true that all these laws have been upheld by the central government of Thailand. The Act has become “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate, and an instrument of discrimination and highhandedness”. Therefore the Act should be withdrawn forthwith.
2. Minimize the number of Army men: Keeping in view the large concentration of military and paramilitary forces in the Southern States of Thailand , which is disproportionate to the civilian population and is also making civil administration ineffective in many matters, the Government of Thailand should take immediate steps to minimize the number of these forces in order to bring relief to the civilian population.
3. The need for a Special Judicial Authority: We recommend the establishment of a special judicial authority making an independent and thorough inquiry into all allegations of human rights violations, including disappearances, custodial killings, rape, torture, including torture of prisoners, fake encounters, and all other cases related to excesses by security forces. In any case the NHRC and/or the SHRC be authorized to investigate all allegations of violence by the agents of the State, which includes the Army and the security forces (as recommended by the U.N. Human Rights Committee)
4. No license to kill: Every case of killing by police and security forces in situations like protests, demonstrations, riots, etc. should be followed by a judicial inquiry into the police/security forces firing/actions, followed by proper, time-bound administrative action.
5. Need for rehabilitation: Provide proper rehabilitation to families of deceased, injured, and traumatized victims, especially the raped. Compensation as interim relief should be arranged promptly. Compensation should be adequate and purposeful. Compensation should be for both injuries to person as well as for damage to property, i.e. houses, etc
6. Establishment of Fast Track Courts: The State should immediately establish Fast Track Courts for the purpose of trying the large number of cases which are pending. The Courts should call for records from every police station and give suitable directions to investigate and file charge- sheets within a time bound framework.
7. Release all detunes: Both state as well as central governments should take immediate steps to address the sufferings of detainees who are languishing in various jails and interrogation centers in and outside the state of Yala and Patani and have been complaining of torture and inhuman treatment inside the jails.
8. Scheme for Witness Protection: The State should provide witness protection since many of the witnesses are being threatened.
9. Establish ‘Grievance Cells’ : Over the years many people from the region have been complaining that among the most difficult issues is the problem faced by those who seek information about family members and friends who have been picked up and detained by armed forces or security forces. There have been a large number of cases where those taken away without warrants have “disappeared”, or ended up dead or badly injured. Suspicion and bitterness have grown as a result. There is need for a mechanism which is transparent, quick and involves authorities from concerned agencies as well as civil society groups to provide information on the whereabouts of missing persons within 24 hours.” the Government should first establish a “Grievance Cell” in every town where armed forces are deployed. These cells will receive complaints regarding allegations of missing persons or abuse of law by security/armed forces, make prompt enquiries and furnish information to the complainants. The Cell should have the full authority to inspect and call for every record maintained by the security forces or by the local authorities. The Cell should have one or two senior members of the local administration and one or two independent senior citizens who do not belong to any political parties.
10. The need for dialogue with the people: From the evidence put before us, it is clear that the rule of law does not operate as laid down in the statute books. In fact it would appear that the real mass discourse is a reflection of the mass alienation in the Patania and Yala. The Government’s focus is on containing the armed militants but not on having a sustained dialogue with the population and its leaders.
Any path for a solution of the Yala and Patani problem must squarely and frontally deal with this mass alienation of the people and directly confront its causes. As a confidence building measure, the Government should hold talks with the representatives, organizations of men and women, in these provinces.
In conclusion, we assert that if there is political will, sufficient capacity at the level of governance, and support from the international community, the resolution of this conflict can be achieved by emphasizing the civil society’s involvement in the peace building process. It can lead to a constructive pattern that promotes legitimate decision-making capacity, strengthens autonomous development and sustains civil rather than military politics. All these are conducive to the meeting of human basic needs.
Signatures of Pattani Team :
Mohammad, Aziz, Dilnawaz, Fazal, Firghana, Khushal, Mansoor, , Nadeem, Paul, Priyanka, Rudy, Samra, Sreyasa, Waqar Wains
March 18-20, 2011