Insurgents in Southern Thailand Must Stop War Crimes Against Civilian Immediately, Says Amnesty International

Press Release
September 27, 2011

Insurgents in Southern Thailand Must Stop War Crimes Against Civilian Immediately, Says Amnesty International

Human rights organization states that nearly 5000 people have been killed and thousands injured in the last eight years in four southern Thailand provinces

Contact: AIUSA media relations, 202-509-8194

(Washington) -- Amnesty International today urged insurgents in the long-running internal armed conflict in southern Thailand to immediately stop their campaign of targeting civilians.

In the new report, “They took nothing but his life”: Unlawful killings in Thailand’s southern insurgency, provides details of how insurgents have deliberately attacked “soft targets”: farmers, teachers, students, religious leaders, and civil servants. Many of these attacks constitute war crimes.

Nearly 5,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured in Thailand’s four southern-most provinces, in the nearly eight years since the insurgency there reignited.

“Insurgents in southern Thailand are spreading terror among the civilian population by deliberately targeting people with no role in the conflict—no one is immune from attack,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director. “The insurgents must publicly commit to stopping these unlawful killings immediately.”

The report is based on the testimony of 154 interviews with witnesses and survivors, relatives and friends of victims, conducted between October 2010 and July 2011. This testimony provides information about 66 insurgent attacks against civilians in three southern Thai districts: Rangae in Narathiwat province, Yarang in Pattani, and Yaha in Yala.

Fifteen year-old Zakariya Wilson, a rubber tapper, was killed by insurgents in Yaha district in September 2009. “I have no idea why they killed him, as he was just a boy and a good kid. They took nothing but his life,” said his father.

The insurgents, predominantly ethnic Malay Muslims, have been violently challenging the officially and predominantly Buddhist Thai state since January 2004. From then and through June 2011, some two-thirds of those killed in the conflict have been civilians, mainly Muslims whom insurgents believe are too close to the government or refuse to cooperate with them.

“The insurgents seem to be attacking many of the very people on whose behalf they are ostensibly fighting, destroying their lives and livelihoods,” said Guest. “Whatever their grievances, they do not justify this serious and systematic violation of international law.”

Successive Thai governments have attempted to curb the insurgency through various policy initiatives, but none has managed to make any significant headway. “The new Thai government must urgently turn its attention to the conflict in the deep South where civilians living in the region need protection,” said Guest. “The region is still characterized by a culture of official impunity. All unlawful killings, including those allegedly by security forces, must be independently investigated and acted upon.”

Torture and other human rights violations by Thai security forces engaged in counter-insurgency efforts also continue. After a January 2011 attack by insurgents on a military base in Narathiwat province, at least nine suspects detained by security forces reported that they were tortured in custody

"The U.S. Government should urge the Thai government to investigate security officials alleged to be responsible unlawful killings and other human rights abuses, including those involved in the October 2004 incident in TakBai district, “said T. Kumar, director of international advocacy for Amnesty International USA. “So far, not a single official has been held accountable for the deaths of 78 detainees who suffocated while being transported by the military in tightly packed trucks."

“It is ultimately the Thai government’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of all Thai citizens,” said Guest.“As a matter of international law—and as repeatedly demonstrated by experience in Thailand and around the world—any counter-insurgency strategy must have a strong human rights component.”

Notes to Editors

The new report, “They took nothing but his life”: Unlawful killings in Thailand’s southern insurgency,” covers a period from November 2006 to June 2011 and draft of this report was made available to the Royal Thai Government for comment. Their response is found in Appendix II of the report.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

 

###

 

 

For a copy of the report,“They took nothing but his life”: Unlawful killings in Thailand’s southern insurgency,” or for more information, please contact the AIUSA media office or visit www.amnestyusa.org.