Joint Statement: Clashes at Pattani dam and bomb attack at the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre violate the principle of peaceful settlement of conflict and undermine the peace process

Joint Statement: Clashes at Pattani dam and bomb attack at the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre violate the principle of peaceful settlement of conflict and undermine the peace process

Published on 20 March 2020

From 12 to 20 March 2020, the Thai security forces had laid siege to Pattani Dam, which is located near Ta-seh subdistrict, Muang district, Yala province, to arrest suspected insurgents in the military operation to “surround and encircle militants.” According to the public statement released by the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC4) Forward Command, four militants and one security officer were killed in the clashes during this operation whereas some officers were slightly injured. The troop had spent nine full days and nights surrounding and pursuing seven suspected militants who are allegedly involved in many violent incidents in the southern border provinces (SBPs) of Thailand. Critics say such a strategy disrupts the everyday life of residents in nearby areas and violates the principle of peaceful settlement of conflict as well as undermine the effort in securing a peace dialogue of both the government and non-state militant groups.

The Cross-Cultural Foundation, the Patani Human Rights Organization Network (HAP), and Duay Jai Group are saddened by the loss. We encourage all sides to choose peace over conflict and express compassion to each other and concerned persons working on solving conflicts to continue the effort in building peace in the SBPs. The ISOC4’s Forward Command has apologized the residents living nearby and announced that it would cease its operation on 20 March 2020 at 4:00 pm.

According to news reports and aforementioned public statement, the security forces justified its military operation as legitimate enforcement of the law to block an area for the purpose of arresting militants with official arrest warrants. However, it must be noted that the military had used excessive, unnecessary, and disproportionate use of armed force throughout the operation. Analysts note that such a practice might have been an act of reprisal in response to the bomb attack at the Southern Border Province Administration (SBPAC) office, which is located at the center of Yala province, on 17 March 2020. The bomb injured four individuals and damaged the government’s properties. The military operation and violent reprisal by all sides often lead to large-scale damages which have negative impacts on local people’s economic and physical security, as well as deteriorate their mental health in the long run.

We, the undersigned organizations, hold the following opinions:

1. We acknowledge the importance of counterinsurgency operations for security forces in the SBPs. Nonetheless, using armed forces to target persons with an arrest warrant does not align with the principle of peaceful settlement of conflict. The purpose of the operation should only aim for bringing the perpetrators to justice. Therefore, the siege operation and subsequent extrajudicial killing is considered to be in contradiction with the spirit of the ongoing peace dialogue.

2. The practice of extrajudicial killing weakens the country’s rule of law because it violates the victim’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by the Court of Justice. The principle of due process must be taken into adjudication. Upcoming post-mortem inquests must determine whether the extrajudicial killing of the four suspected militants was lawful.

3. Should the military justifies their use of armed forces by claiming that the SBPs is under the state of war, it must follow the principles of military operations during wartime which requires the minimization of civilian casualties and collateral damage. All military operations must also be proportional and necessary. Public outcries concerning this incident of excessive use of military force should be the key lesson that teaches relevant security units to come up with proper measures to reduce losses during military operations and maintain positive images of the government in accordance with the principle of peaceful settlement.

Accordingly, we propose the following recommendations:

  1. The ISOC4’s Forward Command shall review its protocol regarding conducting siege, search-and-seizure operations, and arrests by taking into account and strictly adhering to the principles of human rights and peaceful settlement of conflict.
  2. Both parties of the conflict shall work with local communities and civil society groups to enhance their strategies in promoting the peace process instead of resorting to militaristic violence that might negatively affects local people’s feelings and poses obstacles for the peace dialogue.
  3. Relevant government authorities shall provide compensation for the losses of income caused by the state-led military operation to the affected communities. The state has duties not only to protect the right to life and safety, but also economic, social, and cultural rights. In the current context, the government must fulfil this obligation by supporting local communities in response to the economic downturn as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  4. It is imperative for law enforcement officers to investigate into the bomb attack at the SBPAC office on 17 March 2020 in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. The investigative procedure shall be carried out in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code with sufficient human rights safeguards guaranteed under the Constitution of Thailand and relevant international laws. Such an approach will provide an effective means to prevent violent incidents in the future.

For more information, please contact:    

Mr. Ismael Tae, The Patani Human Rights Organization Network, 085-252 7824

Ms. Pornpen Kongkajornkiet, The Cross-Cultural Foundation, 065-979 3836

Ms. Anchana Heemmina, The Duay Jai Group, 081-809 8609

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