Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Imam’s Killing Highlights Army Abuse in South"

Human Rights Watch has just issued a press release on the depressing situation of extrajudicial killings by Thai security forces in Southern Thailand.

This is not new of course, but the issue continues to amaze.

For all the talk of winning hearts and minds and complaints that the locals dont trust them, security forces continue to be their own worst enemy.

How many southern residents respond when you ask them who they are most scared of, its usually the military/police that are mentioned first and then followed by militants.

But of course, its the fact that security forces have been running amok in the South with little to no real effort to reign in their violent behavior that prevents locals from trusting and aligning their loyalty to the state.

As Brad Adams from Human Rights Watch points out, Thai security forces do as much to create the violence as they do to pacify it:

“The insurgents justify illegal attacks on civilians by saying they’re retaliating against abuses by Thai security forces, and the Thai army responds in kind. It is a deadly and pointless vicious circle.”

How apt .

The full press release from Human Rights Watch:

(New York, March 26, 2008) – Bringing to justice the killers of an imam detained by the military in Thailand’s southern Narathiwat province will be a key test for the Thai authorities, Human Rights Watch said today. Violence is escalating in the south, where the Thai military is fighting a Muslim separatist insurgency that has frequently targeted civilians.

The body of Imam Yapa Koseng, a 56-year-old Muslim religious leader arrested by the army on March 19, 2008, showed visible signs of torture, relatives said. Human Rights Watch said the apparent murder of Yapa highlighted the broader problem of ill-treatment of Muslims in Thai army custody during operations against the militants.

“Muslims in southern Thailand live in fear of the army storming in to take their men away to be tortured,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The army is fighting an insurgency, but that doesn’t mean soldiers can abuse people. And prosecuting troops for mistreatment could actually help calm the situation and rebuild trust with the Muslim community.”

On March 19, soldiers from the army’s 39th Taskforce in Narathiwat province arrested Yapa and five others, including his son, in Ban Kortor village, Rue Soh district, Narathiwat. Army spokesman Colonel Akra Thiproj said Yapa was wanted by the authorities for his alleged involvement in bomb attacks by insurgents in Narathiwat. The men were taken to the 39th Taskforce camp and locked inside a customized truck used as a detention cell. Yapa’s family went to the camp, but was not allowed face-to-face visits. Relatives could only shout from afar to talk to him and other detainees.

On March 21, Yapa’s family went to visit him again and was informed that he was dead. Yapa’s relatives saw his body later that day and found it was covered with bruises and burn marks, and his ribs were fractured. Yapa’s family members said they were told forensic experts were conducting an autopsy but were not allowed to see the report.

The next day, Thai army chief General Anupong Phaochinda, on a trip to Narathiwat, announced that a special committee would be set up to investigate Yapa’s death and promised to punish those found guilty. Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the sincerity of this pledge because of allegations by Yapa’s family that the authorities have pressured relatives to remain silent and not to pursue legal action.

Human Rights Watch has interviewed numerous Muslims in the southern border provinces recently released from detention at Thai army facilities who complained of being tortured, as well as lawyers and independent medical experts who have seen detainees during and after their release.

Many former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that after being arrested they were immediately tortured by interrogators, including soldiers in uniform and in plainclothes. The abuses continued after they were transferred to the Thai army’s main interrogation center at Ingkhayuthboriharn Camp in Pattani. The most common forms of torture and other ill-treatment were ear-slapping, punching, kicking, beating with wooden and metal clubs, forced nudity, exposure to cold temperature, electric shock, strangulation, and suffocation with plastic bags.

Every soldier in the southern border provinces carries a code-of-conduct booklet produced by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) prohibiting violations of human rights and due process of law. But Human Rights Watch said that ill-treatment and torture of detainees by forces under the command of Lt. General Viroj Buacharoon of the 4th Army Region (in charge of Thailand’s 14 southern provinces) has increased since the launch of sweep operations in June 2007 in areas known to be strongholds of separatist militants.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised its concerns with Thai authorities that detainees are extremely vulnerable to torture, “disappearance,” and extrajudicial killing during pre-charge detention under laws that allow detainees to be held in Thai army custody for 37 days without safeguards against abuses. Viroj has enforced a special regulation prohibiting detainees from access to family and lawyers during the first 72 hours of their detention, when the risk of torture is greatest.

Thai authorities have the responsibility to maintain law and order and to bring to justice individuals, including separatist militants, who resort to violence or otherwise threaten public security. Such actions must be conducted in accordance with Thai and international law.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej held a crisis meeting on March 21 to discuss government responses to the deteriorating security situation in the south. After a cabinet meeting on March 25, Samak delegated his extensive security powers as ISOC director to Anupong, putting the army chief fully in charge of efforts to quell the insurgency. He made no mention of the urgent need for Thai security forces to respect human rights and due process of law.

Human Rights Watch called on the Thai government and army to immediately ensure the safety of all detainees; to provide urgent medical care to all who sustained injuries during arrest or in detention; to allow timely access to legal counsel and family members; and to launch a full investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

“The conflict in the south is now the deadliest in Thailand’s history,” said Adams. “The insurgents justify illegal attacks on civilians by saying they’re retaliating against abuses by Thai security forces, and the Thai army responds in kind. It is a deadly and pointless vicious circle.”


Human rights in Thailand’s southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla have eroded steadily as a result of an increasingly brutal separatist insurgency, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives since resuming in January 2004. The militants have committed widespread abuses, including numerous bombings against civilians. In response, the Thai government has imposed special security legislation – including the Executive Decree on Government Administration in Emergency Situations and the Martial Law Act – and increased the number of regular and paramilitary troops to nearly 30,000 in the region.

Thai security forces have carried out extrajudicial killings, “disappearances,” arbitrary arrests, and torture of Muslims known or suspected to be involved with separatist groups.

While the Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani (Patani Freedom Fighters), separatist insurgents in the loose network of BRN-Coordinate (National Revolution Front-Coordinate), have suffered setbacks in the last 18 months, they are still able to maintain their presence in hundreds of Muslim villages. The insurgents use state-sponsored abuse to justify their call for Muslims to collaborate and fight with them for the liberation of the predominantly Muslim provinces from the “infidels” (referring to Thai authorities and Buddhist Thai people).

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Thailand, please visit:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CS Pattani Hotel car bombing

For anyone working in the southern border provinces there was always one safe place to stay.

The CS Pattani Hotel, owned by Anusas Suwanmongkhol, was a curiously safe haven from the violence.

After working all day in the provinces, criss crossing military check points and speeding through the lawless 'red zones', the CS Pattani was a welcome relief.

Working days in the south are characterized by a heavy military menace, burnt down schools, suspicion, fear, hostility, and nerve wracking drives through insurgent haunted lands.

Once off the main highway in front of the hotel, and driving up the well trimmed lawns with children's playgrounds and friendly business' lining the roads there was a sense of leaving the conflict zone.

Returning to the CS Pattani was a blessing and their hospitality and delicious local tea was a delight. If you look at the picture above, on the left, under the burned out arch cluttered with debris, and i presume some blood, was the best seating for a tea and chat with the those in the know.

There were also no soldiers and no police....not even the usual shifty youths that often haunt the streets. I remember drinking beer at the corner store beside the hotel (even though the hotel owner is a Thai Buddhist, there is no booze inside the well decorated southern-style hotel) and trying to spot the security.

There were the ubiquitous parking dudes. Wearing the classic 'blue collar suit' they do navigate cars into spaces but, as a form of real security, there are not.

I must have spent the length of three relaxing street-side Singhas and could not spot even one undercover security agent. No soldiers, no police, and not a single gun in sight. I could have dosed off for a nap because it just felt that safe.

And because it was deemed safe, the whose-who of knowledge brokers stayed there. There werent many tourists, of course, but the hotel was filled with local and foreign journalists, NGO types, academics, some 'intelligence analyst' types, and packs of political carpetbaggers ranging from those blessed with local knowledge to those simply blessed but with out any local knowledge like former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Simply put, everyone with an interest in the region stayed there or at least held meetings and drank tea there.

Given the nature of the hotel's safety record and its clients, rumors were rampant that the owner had made his own security arrangements.

The story goes that owner, Anusas Suwanmongkhol, had cut a deal with both the military and other shady characters who might or might not be insurgents.

By cutting a deal between both parties, a peaceful space could exist in the midst of daily chaos.

But, as violence continues year after year, all boundaries will eventually be tested.

Anusas Suwanmongkhol has also recently been appointed as a senator. And, as many people know, a certain percentage of violence in the region is not just separatist but general-political and general-business related. So the lines could be blurred.

The always informative Bangkok Pundit noted that because there was another car bomb (detonated prematurely killing the suspected bomber) at another location it does suggest that there was a coordinated attack on disparate targets which would lead to the suggestion that it was indeed an insurgent attack.

Ultimately, what this attack means is two things.

The first is that more sophisticated and larger scale attacks have started. Reports stated that a first bomb was detonated in a ground floor washroom that, presumably, was designed to empty the hotel guests into the lobby and the street. And that is where the car bomb was waiting for them.

The next is more rudimentary. All lines of safety have been erased and the size of bombs are growing in sophistication as well as their tactical aim of causing more and more casualties is being testing and will likely be perfected.

The deep south might have lost a safe haven, but the entire deep south has also woken up to a new escalation in violence.

Quality Reporting from Al Jaseera

Al Jazeera English has some great coverage of the southern conflict. I have just recently found their work on and, for the sake of increasing the resource value of this blog, intend to add more of their work.

I know, I know, I might be the last one waking up to this!

Also, if anyone has footage of the CS Pattani Hotel car bombing on Saturday night, I would be very interesting in seeing it and hearing what you have to say about it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Samak's Divisive Nationalism

In a recent article in The Nation, Prime Minister Samak claimed that Thais would not do anything to harm their country and, to follow his logic, that would mean that those involved in the insurgency in the deep south must not be Thai.

From The Nation - PM blames "outsiders" for southern violence:

"Samak blames 'outsiders' for insurgent attacks, asserting that Thais don't do things that harm their country."

Such utterances might be brushed off as Samak's usual acerbic style but, at the intersection of Thai-nationalism and discontent in South Thailand, such comments only serve to increase the divide between Bangkok and the deep south.

A long-standing grievance held by Malay-Muslims in Southern Thailand is the often repeated suggestion that they are 'guests' in Thailand.

The Thai term keak (แขก) means a guest and particularly a guest of Indian or Arab descent. It is not necessarily a bad word on its own, but the term has often been used in Thai discourse when talking about Malay-Muslims in the southern provinces.

The trouble is that the Malay-Muslims are, of course, citizens of Thailand.

The awkward suggestion that Malay-Muslims are only guests in Thailand is not just offensive but should be understood in context of the region's history.

The southern provinces were an independent Islamic sultanate that Thailand officially annexed in 1903 and has administering like a colonial possession ever since.

To call Malay-Muslims guests in the country of their birth is an insult. To call them guests in the land of their forefathers feeds rebellion.

This might seem to be nitpicking and unfairly taking Samak to task over minor linguistic subtleties but that is not the case. As the Prime Minister, Samak is responsible for setting the tone of how the government will attempt to reign in the escalating violence in the South.

By suggesting that those responsible for the daily acts of resistance to Thai rule are not Thai, Samak has made a foolish blunder.

Essentially, Samak is encouraging ethnic/religious polarization by forcing citizens to chose between simplistic notions of Thai nationalism or the simplistic label of foreign separatist.

As the situation in the border provinces has been sliding ever and ever closer to a conflict based on ethnic/religious lines, Samak's divisive remarks are not just strategic blunders but will encouraging conflict between Thai-Buddhist and Malay-Muslim communities.

The Nation's article ends with:

"My visit to Malaysia will give me a clearer picture of the situation," he (Samak) says.

Yet it seems that Samak needs more than a clearer picture. He will need tact, diplomacy, and a sound strategy to prevent the southern crisis from escalating.

But, as Samak has already demonstrated, he has little tact or diplomacy.

One can only hope that Samak will at least have a strategy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

"The following steps should NOT be taken"

Thanks to Not The Nation for the following helpful article on how to NOT bypass the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology's clumsy and ethically questionable attempts to censor the internet.

From Not The Nation:

The following steps should NOT be taken by those attempting to bypass the Ministry of Communication and Information’s blocking of websites

It is ILLEGAL to use this guide to quickly and easily access the world of free information on the internet. NTN provides this information in the public interest as a clear example of what not to do, right now.

  1. DO NOT log onto to
  2. DO NOT download the latest package on this page:
  3. DO NOT open the file, which will automatically install all the software you need.
  4. DO NOT notice that a small icon now appears in your system tray, shaped like a small onion.
  5. DO NOT right-click the onion and select “Start” from the pop-up menu.
  6. DO NOT use the same menu to select “Message List” to see the Tor system slowly develop an anonymizing network.
  7. Once its tells you “A circuit has been built” DO NOT then enjoy safe, censorship-free surfing to banned sites such as YouTube and MindightUniversity.
  8. For even greater convenience, DO NOT download Mozilla Firefox, a superior web browser program available free at , and DO NOT then download an add-on called “Tor Button” here at that allows you to switch Tor on and off easily while browsing.
  9. If you do successfully download Tor, DO NOT keep a copy of the downloaded installation file which can be easily emailed as an attachment to all your friends or distributed on a CD-ROM or flash keychain drive.
  10. If the Tor download page is blocked, DO NOT seek out other similar services and software such as these: or or
  11. If these services are not available, DO NOT do a Google Search for “anonymizer” or anonymity networks” and DO NOT learn more at