Giles Ji Ungpakorn
It is an outrage that the Thai state is set to execute five captured southern rebels who were allegedly involved in an ambush attack on soldiers in July 2012. Four soldiers from a motorbike patrol were killed and a number of others seriously wounded in this attack.
Even if the five captured rebels are in fact guilty, and we all know how the Thai justice system works in finding scape-goats, the execution of captured enemy combatants is unacceptable. They should be treated as prisoners of war, not common criminals. What is more, the death sentence is an abomination under any circumstances.
The present Thai military dictatorship is headed by the general who ordered the shooting of nearly a hundred un-armed prodemocracy demonstrators in 2010. The Thai state murdered 85 unarmed Muslim Malays at Takbai in 2004 and throughout Patani more civilian Muslim Malays have been killed than Thai soldiers. Often these killings are carried out by state run or state-sponsored death squads. Not one single Thai military official or politician has ever been charged with these state killings, even when we know who they are. This puts the death sentences for the five rebel fighters in context. It is sheer brutal hypocrisy.
The fact that the Thai state attempts to treat attacks by southern rebels as “criminal acts” is not unique. Many states including those in the West have tried to paint liberation fighters as “terrorists and bandits”. However, this attitude never leads to a political solution to the conflict because it denies that oppressed people have genuine grievances which force them into taking armed action. In the end states are forced to negotiate. One such freedom fighter who was branded as a “terrorist” was Nelson Mandela.
The long-running war in Patani is the result of years of oppression and violence by the Thai state. The conflict can only be brought to a peaceful end by a negotiated political settlement which recognises the rights of the people of Patani to self-determination, even if that means autonomy or independence.
Yet various Thai governments have set their face against a genuine political solution. They may enter into negotiations with some rebel groups from time to time, but they continue to emphasise military methods to suppress dissent and the struggle for liberation.
The problem has been made even worse by the military coups and suppression of democracy in the country as a whole.
For more detail on the conflict between rebels and the Thai state in Patani see my paper:
“The Bloody Civil War in Patani and the way to Achieve Peace”.