Guest article by Adam John
In the village of Tak Bai in Patani “southern Thailand”, unarmed local people held a demonstration outside a police station protesting against the arrest and detainment of five villagers. Rocks were thrown by some of the protesters while the military and police fired water cannon and tear gas and then live ammunition into the crowd at head height. Seven of the people in the crowd were killed. The military and police then rounded up 1,200 people, stripped them to their waist and forced them to crawl on their stomachs to army trucks while being kicked and beaten by security forces.
They were then forced to lie down in the army trucks and were piled up on top of one another. The civilians were then left in this state for 5 hours while they were transported to an army barracks. By the time the trucks arrived 78 of the detained civilians had died due to suffocation or organ failure. A number of the survivors were severely injured and lost their limbs.
Not one solider, police officer or high commanding officer has ever been prosecuted for the role they played in this crime. In fact, in August 2013, the Supreme Court in Thailand ruled that the security personnel were blameless because they had only been performing their duties. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned these human rights violations by the Thai state. Taksin Sinawat was Prime Minister at the time and must take responsibility for this crime.
What happened in Tak Bai has not only been dismissed by the Thai courts but there is nothing to stop other crimes against civilians from happening again. This is because of the Emergency Decree which the government has used to administer Patani since July 2005. The Decree means that the army and police cannot be prosecuted for any criminal cases brought against them. They are free to act with impunity. Tak Bai is an extreme example of the attitude the Thai authorities have towards it citizens. It is not only minorities such as the Malay Muslims in Patani who have suffered from state abuses. The economic and political elite hold the majority of its citizens with contempt. The fact that the country is controlled by a military junta is a prime example of this contempt for democracy and self-determination.
Symbolically, Tak Bai should be treated as an attack on all people governed by the Thai state therefore all Thai citizens should be mourning the Tak Bai atrocity and helping their Patani neighbours seek the justice they deserve.