For immediate release on 18 December 2019
Public statement: Hold accountable the perpetrators for the case of extrajudicial killings against three civilians in Narathiwat’s Ta We Mountain and reform counterinsurgency measures in the Deep South
On 16 December 2019, the Thai security forces launched a search operation on Ta We Mountain in Bor Ngor Sub-District, Ra-ngae District in the southern border province (SBP) of Narathiwat. During the operation, security officials have fired shots killing three civilians. Reportedly, the three people killed were local villagers living near the mountain; their names were Mr. Manasae Samaar, 27, Mr. Budiman Mali, 26, and Mr. Haphisi Mada-oh, 24. They were initially alleged to be involved with an armed insurgent group; however, their family members and neighbors in the same village asserted that they were innocent citizens who were hired to cut logs on the mountain and had nothing to do with the insurgent group.
Even though the incident took place in the morning of 16 December, the authorities took more than 30 hours to deliver the bodies of the dead to their family members for funeral services. The families, therefore, only retrieved the bodies on 17 December. Later, they have been sent to the Ra-ngae hospital for autopsy as required by law given that the deaths had been caused during the execution of duties by public officials.
Many facts about this incident currently remains shrouded in secrecies; notably, the reason why the officials decided to use firearms to kill the three civilians is still unknown to the public. Such absence of transparency has triggered widespread anger among local populations in the SBPs. Moreover, many people are unsatisfied by the misinformation publicized by the government. On 16 December, the Fourth Region Army Commander who claimed that the extrajudicial killings had resulted from a “clash with armed groups which were hiding on the Ta We Mountain.” Nonetheless, the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC4) later issued a press release on the next day, stating that the security officials used firearms to kill the three civilians because they “mistook” them as part of the insurgent group.
The Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF) notes that such extrajudicial killings are not the first incident of its kind. According to Duay Jai Group, a prominent civil society organization which has been consistently monitoring and documenting cases of extrajudicial killings in the SBPs, there have been 18 cases of extrajudicial killings reported and verified by the media. All of the documented incidents share similar patterns of occurrence as the incident on Ta We mountain.
CrCF would like to express our condolence to the victims’ families and commend ISOC for expressing their condolence and for giving out facts about the incident which is useful for the public and further attempt to investigate the human rights violation.
CrCF firmly believes that the government has a crucial duty to protect people in the SBPs from armed violence. Nevertheless, given what happened in the most recent incident, CrCF proposes the following recommendations for the government to help them review the current counterinsurgency approaches and allow them to fulfill their duty more effectively:
1. Civilian agencies including the Royal Thai Police and the Office of Attorney General should lead a prompt, effective, and independent investigation into this incident to uncover the truths surrounding these extrajudicial killings. They should operate independently and free from influence of the military. Such an investigation should subsequently bring about an inquest hearing and criminal prosecution to bring the perpetrators to justice.
2. Military authorities- including the 4th Region Army and ISOC 4 Forward- should give their full cooperation and revea all relevant information which would assist the effort to uncover the truths, including names of all military officials involved with the operation on Ta We Mountain. Any officials who are suspects in this case should be transferred from their offices in the region to facilitate the investigation.
3. The government should ensure the families of the victims are properly compensated- financially and symbolically- including by offering a public apology and ensuring the perpetrators are brought to justice via a criminal justice process in the civilian courts and face disciplinary actions. The process should be conducted seriously and open to the public.
4. The counter-insurgency operations involving the enforcement of special security laws should be subject to reform. The security officials should receive training on the use of firearms in compliance with international standards. They should receive sensitivity trainings to ensure the arrests of suspects in security-related matters are conducted objectively without racial bias. In addition, the format of peace dialogue should be adjusted to ensure meaningful and inclusive participation of all stakeholders.
For more information, please contact Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF), phone 063-975-1757