Land rights battle Thailand analysed
- The article about the 78 land rights demonstrators killed in Thailand
last week has been mysteriously deleted from the Diggers 350 archive.
Not, it appears, by anyone conected with tlio.
So I've repeated it here, below this more recent analysis of the
situation in Pattani from a Turkish/American website. Muslim ethical
and cultural values are under ruthless attack, it seems, right across
the globe. How long until Christian, and Jewish cultures get the same
TLIO - 0117 373 0346
Thai Muslims Massacred What Lies Beneath?
Thursday, October 28 2004 @ 11:43 AM Central Daylight Time
By Mohamed Gamal Arafa
The latest confrontations in southern Thailand that culminated in the
brutal death of over 80 Muslims in police custody have opened a new
chapter of violence in the predominantly-Muslim region.
At least 78 Muslims died after being either suffocated or crushed on
October 26, in military custody. They were arrested at a demonstration
in the country's restive south.
The official reaction was unnerving to Muslims, who make up 18 per
cent of the country's overall population.
The Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was quick to praise the
security forces for ending the protests.
"They have done a great job," he said. "They [the protesters] really
set out to cause trouble, so we had to take drastic action against
Abdulraman Abdulsamad, chairman of the Islamic Council in Narathiwat,
said: "I believe hell will break out."
A local separatist organization, the Pattani United Liberation
Organization (PULO), posted a warning on its website saying Bangkok
would be a target for retaliation.
"Their capital will be burned down in the same way the Pattani capital
has been burned," the statement said.
The tragic incident -- denounced by international rights groups -- was
the worst Muslim loss of life since April, when 108 Muslims were shot
dead in clashes between Muslim youth and security forces.
The demonstrators wanted nothing less than improving their harsh
living conditions and satisfying their tendency to separatism.
The south has also seen several bloody clashes when Muslims took to
the streets to push forward their long-cherished demands.
Police usually respond with unjustified excessive force to end the
protests, according to reports by local and international groups.
On one occasion, security forces shelled a mosque in which 30
individuals were hiding. The building was demolished with the bodies
inside smashed beyond recognition.
The excessive use of force by Thai security forces against Muslims -
in addition to official complacency -- shows how the Buddhist
government greatly fears the growing influence of Muslim groups in the
The five to eight million Muslims have been calling for the formation
of a Muslim state comprising the provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and
Yala provinces, a demand the government reacts to with excessive
The government seems to be playing on the current situation worldwide,
exploiting the international enmity towards Muslims to quell any
separatism by what it now calls "terrorist" movements.
Thai premier is also under pressure to end the violence in the Muslim-
majority provinces that border Malaysia, as he faces elections in
Further, the government has escalated the tension taking up the chance
of the "war on terrorism" to avoid criticism of international human
rights and win over more supporters for its line of violent reactions
to the protests.
Amnesty International had urged the Thai government to impartially
investigate the deaths, in the province of Narathiwat.
But Thaksin reacted with defiance, saying the government had resorted
to "gentle measures" and did not use force.
Feelings are running high among the Muslim community in the southern
provinces following the imposition of martial law in January.
More than 350 have since died in clashes with security forces,
according to a BBC count.
To add salt to injury, Muslims in the southern region also complain
about sex trade, rampant in its tourist attractions frequented by many
The existence of night clubs and alcohol shops in the region further
infuriate the predominantly Muslim inhabitants.
On May 7, the PULO has posted a warning on the internet warning
Muslims against going to night clubs or music concerts.
The government has disregarded these appeals, leading Muslim youths to
protest on a regular basis.
The violent response of police could be attributed to the government
fears for the collapse of the tourism industry, a key earner of hard
currency and a key boost to the country's economy.
Several western governments have warned their nationals against
traveling to Thailand following the recent clashes. Thai officials
undermine the risks, saying the protests are no more than a few of
thieves and bandits.
History Belies Claims
Looking into the historical background of the Muslim kingdom of
Pattani, annexed by Thailand, the picture of the current merciless
anti-Muslim repeated carnages might be clearer.
Most of Thai Muslims live in the five southern provinces bordering
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the only Muslim majority provinces in
Muslims in these provinces have long complained of discrimination in
jobs and education and business opportunities.
The South was a rich Malay kingdom until it was overrun by the
Buddhist kingdom of Siam in the late 16th century when it declared its
full independence from its earlier status of semi-independence under
the rule of the Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.
In 1909, it was annexed by the Kingdom of Siam as part of a treaty
negotiated with the British Empire.
Both Yala and Narathiwat were originally part of Pattani, but were
split off and became provinces of their own.
There still exists a separatist movement in Pattani that at times
erupts in violence like in the late 1980's when the PULO fought
against the Thai forces for a separate Muslim South.
"The search operations in schools and Islamic centers in search of
"white people wearing beards" is furthering tension in the region,"
said Arifin Jehmah, the president of the Yala Islamic Provincial
Committee in an earlier interview with IslamOnline.net.
Several religious leaders were afraid for their safety and sought
shelter in Malaysia, Muslims in Kelantan, the Malaysian state
bordering Thailand, said in the IOL report .
Muslim leaders vehemently denied official claims that terrorists are
hiding in southern areas, saying the government want to get rid of
separatists movements by associating them with terrorism.
"There are no terrorists in South Thailand, nothing that is close to
the alleged al-Qaeda or the JI, which should not be called the Jemaah
Islamiyah anyway," said Mansor Saleh, a writer and social worker from
Saleh had said that Muslims did not believe the government when it
said two Muslim scholars and a doctor had been arrested for their
connections with the alleged regional "terror network" called the JI.
Thai Muslim complaints of discrimination in jobs and education, along
with the economic neglect of the south, have provided fodder for
separatist movements in the provinces once part of the Muslim kingdom
Community on the Brink After 78 Die in Custody
Published Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
Asia - 21:57 GMT
At least 78 demonstrators died yesterday in Thailand's strife-torn
Muslim-majority southern province of Pattani, many of them beaten,
crushed, and suffocated, after they were arrested and packed tightly
into trucks, Thai government officials acknowledged today.
A team of state pathologists conducted autopsies on the bodies, after
which the team leader, Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan, confirmed that most of
them had died from asphyxiation.
"Eighty percent of them died because they could not breathe,"
Rojanasunan said. Although the pathologists found wounds sustained
beforehand, "we didn't find any dead bodies with broken arms or legs,
but between two or three of them had broken necks, which may have been
caused from the transportation," she said.
The arrests occurred after a six-hour demonstration by around 2,000
Muslims on Monday, demanding the release of the six prisoners that the
government had accused of supplying shotguns to Muslim separatists.
As the protesters neared the local police station, police and troops
attempted to disperse the demonstration with water cannon and tear
gas. Some demonstrators started hurling rocks at the security forces,
who responded by firing live rounds. The police said afterwards that
they had only fired live rounds above the demonstrators, but many who
were there said that they had also fired into the crowd.
Six demonstrators were killed by live fire during the demonstration.
Almost two-thirds of the 2,000-strong demonstrators were arrested as
they left the scene, and lined up.
Some of the men, were told to strip to the waist, and had their hands
tied behind their backs. One reporter said that some of the troops
then beat them with rifles and batons. Reporters were then told to
leave the area, who said they saw those arrested being herded onto
Thai Army deputy commander Major General Sinchai Nujsathit later
confirmed to journalists that more than 1,300 people were packed into
large trucks and taken on a five-hour journey to barracks in the
provincial capital, Pattani city.
After the trucks arrived at the barracks, and troops began herding
demonstrators into the makeshift jail, he said that seventy-two of
them were discovered to have died on the journey. The deaths bring the
number of people killed in unrest in the province so far this year to
Historic Grievances and Present Discrimination
Until one hundred years ago, Pattani was an independent state ruled by
a dynastic monarchy, but after years of war, Thailand annexed the
region in 1902. However, the majority Muslim Pattanis living there
still have more in common with their neighbours in Malaysia than they
do with mainly Buddhist Thai society. Pattanis speak Yawi, a Malay
dialect, and still live by a local version of Islamic custom.
Compared to the relatively industrialised and prosperous central
Thailand provinces around Bangkok, ethnically Malay Pattani's suffer
disproportionate poverty, and this has fuelled a periodic upsurge in
separatism which became a major challenge to government control in the
By the mid-1980s the separatist insurgency was largely under control,
and central government made a series of promises to channel more funds
into the province, but region-wide instability in the wake of the `war
on terror' exploded early this year in Pattani, with a series of
raids, arson attacks and murders by separatists, who complain that the
government, far from improving the life of Pattanis, are carrying out
a systematic campaign designed to cleanse the province of ethnic
Thailand's Muslims often complain of the denial of land rights, of
freedom of religion and of language, and say that discrimination in
the country at large, and government policies, including a rule that
only Thai language is allowed in schools, excludes the Yawi-speaking
Pattanis from civil society.
Human Rights Watch has also consistently reported cases of torture,
kidnapping and bullying tactics by Thai security forces, and
Thailand's own national human rights commissioner, Wasant Panich, has
reportedly said he himself has documented many witness accounts of
police killing people taken into custody.
Other rights groups have accused the authorities of heavy-handed
tactics in responding to separatists, only a relatively small group of
which carry out armed resistance. In April, during a standoff with a
group of armed separatists, police stormed a 16th century mosque,
leaving 32 people dead.
Speaking about this week's deaths in custody, Abd al-Rahman Abd al-
Samad, chairman of the Islamic Council of Narathiwat province, said
the security forces should have acted with greater restraint. "I think
the armed forces over reacted by using force to disperse the
protesters," he said. "If they were more patient and used a softer
approach, the incident would not have ended up with lost lives and
Asked by reporters what he thought the result of the recent deaths
would be, he replied, "I cannot say what is going to happen, but I
believe that hell will break out." Referring to the storming of the
mosque in April, he said, "The memory is still fresh, and with the
latest killings, I am afraid that there will be more violence and
revenge from Muslim people." He said that the only way to peace in
Pattani is to address the long-standing grievances of the people.
Analyst Steve Wilford, of the Singapore-based Control Risks Group,
speaking of the growing security problem in the province, warned that
unless the matter is resolved peacefully soon, Thailand's problems
will only escalate. "It's all building up to the point," he said,
"where we're in serious danger of what is so far a rather serious law
and order issue turning into a broader insurgency,"
Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, today defended the actions of
his security forces and refused a call from the United Nations for an
investigation into the deaths. Thaksin, who visited the scene of the
demonstration, before returning to Bangkok late on Monday, insisted
that his forces' tactics were justified.
"We cannot allow these people to harass innocent people and
authorities any longer," Thaksin said. "We cannot tolerate these bad
things any longer. The bad-intentioned people instigate the youths to
create violence and chaos, so we have no choice but to use force to
suppress them," he added.
When asked by reporters why so many had died on the journey to the
provincial capital, Thaksin was dismissive: "This is typical," he
replied. "It's about bodies made weak from fasting. Nobody hurt them."