Bring out truth about Tak Bai: rights advocate
Says govt must deal swiftly with militants' tactic in trying to gain locals' sympathy
The government must quickly deal with the latest tactic of the insurgents in raising the spectre of 2004's Tak Bai incident to gain the sympathy of locals in the South, Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk said yesterday.
"The government must bring out the truth about the Tak Bai incident," Sunai said.
Insurgents have said last Wednesday's attack on a Narathiwat marine base in which 16 insurgents were killed was in retaliation for Tak Bai. In the October 2004 incident, 1,500 men demonstrated against the detention of six men at a police station in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district. The protesters were rounded up and loaded with their hands bound behind them into trucks for transport to a nearby military base. At least 86 of the detainees died along the way, mostly of suffocation.
"Instead of saying that it has to protect the marine base, the government should set up a committee to probe the insurgents' claim that those who were ambushed and killed by the marines last Wednesday were those involved in the Tak Bai incident,'' Sunai said.
He also criticised the government's tactic of giving compensation to families of slain insurgents as well as victims of insurgent attacks. "This method does not work because lives cannot be brought back with money,'' Sunai said.
He said the government's failure to punish the security officials responsible for the Tak Bai deaths must be corrected because insurgents have been using this point to gain sympathy for their cause.
"The Justice Ministry's efforts to bring about justice in the restive South must be renewed. The government should get Chaturon Chaisang back to do this task,'' he said.
Sunai also warned against propagating the message that locals are cooperating with the government. "The officials should nurture good ties with locals but if they say locals are helping them crack down on insurgents, the locals will be killed."
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung may have good intentions but he lacks understanding about the situation, Sunai said, citing Chalerm's proposal to drop internal security charges against suspects who surrender and confess that they committed the offence because they had been misled.
Sunai also said the series of bomb attacks on Saturday and Sunday that resulted in four deaths in Pattani's city centre, was the result of tit-for-tat tactics by the insurgents, who have turned to attacking Thai civilians because they believe Thais belong to the Thai state.
When pressured in one area, insurgents in the South might move to cause violence in other areas, Sunai warned, referring to the "squeezing the balloons" theory - when security is tightened in one area, the insurgents will move to areas under less pressure.
Meanwhile, Internal Security Operations Command Region Four spokesman Colonel Pramot Prom-in expressed confidence that suspects in the weekend's bombings in Pattani would be arrested soon. Some of the attackers were caught on security camera footage, though it will be harder to identify those who camouflaged themselves by wearing women's clothes and hiding the bomb under a hijab.
Although security officials were able to prevent casualties from bombs planted on Saturday, Sunday's bombing near Pattani's clock tower could not be prevented because insurgents were already hiding at the scene and had quickly improvised the explosive device, Pramot said.
Asked to confirm a claim that one of 16 insurgents who died during last Wednesday's attack on the marine base was a student at Rajabhat University, Pramot said the university should make students understand why security officials had to act. He added that misunderstandings about the insurgency must be solved at all pondok religious schools in the South.