Monday, January 9, 2006

Amnesty Slams "Immune" Thai Police in Muslim South.

Amnesty International,the global human rights watchdog, in a report released on January 4, 2006, as the unrest enters its third year, urged Thailand to investigate alleged abuses by security forces in the restive Muslim majority southern provinces and end their immunity from prosecution.

Amnesty said that Bangkok needed to remove the immunity granted to security forces under a controversial emergency decree in order to win the trust of conflict-weary villagers. The emergency decree, which was enacted in July 2005, was renewed for three months in October and is set to expire on January 19, 2006.

Since the unrest renewed with a raid on a weapons depot by suspected Muslims on January 4, 2004, the Thai authorities’ response has included "arbitrary detention, torture, and excessive lethal force”. Several international and local rights groups have condemned the heavy handed policy of police in the south. Their harsh and militarized policies have generated spiraling dynamic of violence and revenge in the area, leaving Thai Muslims living in fear and horror.

Bangkok must also investigate "all reports of human rights abuses, whether attacks on civilians by armed groups or violations committed by the security forces."They have also failed to properly investigate attacks against both Buddhist and Muslim civilians. Young Muslim men have been 'blacklisted' and assumed guilty with no reason given while people detained are often denied access to a lawyer or interpreter. Those found responsible must be brought to justice.

Current laws which give complete immunity to security forces must be changed to allow for prosecution.

Residents increasingly felt unprotected from the ongoing violence which has claimed more than 1,000 lives in two years, including 20 people who were beheaded.

The Thai government is facing a great challenge in dealing with the violence, but it has responsibilities towards its citizens and needs to ensure justice is done.

Thailand is a predominantly a Buddhist nation but Muslims make up about five percent of the population and mostly lives in the five southern provinces bordering Malaysia. Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the only Muslim majority provinces in Thailand, where Muslims particularly the Malays have long complained of the gross discrimination, albeit in jobs and education and business opportunities.

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