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Thai Land rights activists suffocated in custody

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  • Gerrard Winstanley
    Reminder of story from last year which had disappeared off the Diggers 350 archive. Thanks to Aljazeera. Tony Thai Muslims say they have legitimate
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2005
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      Reminder of story from last year which had disappeared off the Diggers
      350 archive. Thanks to Aljazeera.

      "Thai Muslims say they have legitimate frustrations, due to economic
      deprivation and the denial of land rights, freedom of religion and
      language, as well as the right to run their own schools and to live a
      lifestyle of their choice."

      Thai Muslims suffocated in custody
      Tuesday 26 October 2004 8:32 AM GMT

      Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra has praised his security forces

      At least 78 people have died in southern Thailand, many of them
      crushed and suffocated after they were arrested and packed tightly
      into trucks, officials said on Tuesday.

      Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan, a well-known pathologist in Thailand, told a
      news conference that she and a team of doctors conducted autopsies on
      78 bodies at an army camp in Pattani province and found that most of
      the dead had perished from suffocation.

      "Seventy-eight people died from suffocation. We found no wounds on
      their bodies," senior justice ministry official Manit Sutaporn told a
      news conference in the southern town of Pattani.

      The dead were among some 1300 people arrested on Monday following a
      riot in Thailand's Muslim-dominated southern provinces, which have
      been struck by unrest this year.

      The region was rocked by sporadic violence overnight despite a curfew
      imposed after clashes on Monday between security forces and
      demonstrators left six dead and dozens injured.

      Police had said the situation was under control on Tuesday morning
      after the biggest outbreak of violence between the authorities and
      disaffected Muslims since a day-long clash in April left 108 dead.

      Cause of violence

      The violence erupted late on Monday after a six-hour demonstration
      held by about 2000 protesters outside a police station in Narathiwat
      province's Takbai district to call for the release of six detained
      security volunteers accused of giving their weapons to insurgents.

      Thai police and military forces say they tried to disperse the crowd
      with gunshots, water cannons and tear gas canisters.

      Witnesses say the police fired live rounds into the air and at the crowd.

      Commander General Sirichai Thanyasiri, who heads a new task force to
      improve security in the southern provinces, said:

      Rights groups have accused
      Thailand of heavy-handedness
      "The leaders and core members who created the riot will be put on
      trial and the unwitting followers will be released soon, but I cannot
      say exactly when."


      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 overreacted 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 arrests.

      "Some were demonstrators, some were people who went to watch what was
      going on and there were innocent people affected by the crackdown."

      Rights activists have accused the authorities of heavy-handed tactics
      in the south, including the storming of a 16th century mosque that
      left 32 people dead in an April massacre where the total death toll
      was 108.

      Mosque massacre

      Southern Thai Muslims remain anguished over the massacre at the
      historic mosque in the province of Pattani, he said.

      Muslims say the memory of the
      mosque massacre is still fresh

      "The memory is still fresh, and with the latest killings, I am afraid
      that there will be more violence and revenge from Muslim people," Abd
      al-Samad said.

      At the time, Thailand's national human rights commissioner, Wasant
      Panich, reportedly said he had documented many accounts from witnesses
      that police had often killed suspects who were incapable of fighting back.

      Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra then defended the actions of
      his security forces and refused to heed a UN call for a probe into the

      The premier, who rushed to the scene of this week's violence before
      returning to Bangkok late on Monday, insisted the crackdown was 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.

      Thai Muslims say they have legitimate frustrations, due to economic
      deprivation and the denial of land rights, freedom of religion and
      language, as well as the right to run their own schools and to live a
      lifestyle of their choice.

      Muslim leaders had also issued statements saying the way to peace is
      to address their long-standing grievances.

      They say that governments have found it more convenient to join the
      US-led western chorus and simply branded them as "militants or
      terrorists" and by so doing, giving themselves the licence to harass
      and violate the basic human rights of innocent people.

      Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other rights groups have consistently
      been reporting cases of torture, kidnapping and disproportionate force
      by Thai security personnel.

      Malaysia concerned

      Malaysian Foreign Minister Albar
      says his country is concerned

      Following yesterday's violence Malaysia expressed concern over the
      latest clash in its northern neighbour.

      "The flare up in southern Thailand is a matter of concern to us,"
      Foreign Minister Sayyid Hamid Albar said on Tuesday.

      "Thailand is a close neighbour. Any incidents will be watched closely

      He added that Kuala Lumpur was working closely with Bangkok to develop
      the troubled south so that economic prosperity would bring peace to
      the region.


      Shinawatra hosted talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad
      Badawi at the resort island of Phuket earlier this month to flesh out
      development plans for the three southernmost Thai provinces.

      "We are sad there has been an incident. We will wait and see what had
      happened," Syed Hamid said.

      Police Major General Kamon Bhotiyop, commander of police in
      Narathiwat, said on Tuesday that the police and army had set up
      security checkpoints and the situation had calmed.


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