An inquest has found out that the four Muslim men were unarmed, who were killed by security forces in last year’s incident involving the murder of four Muslim men from Thailand’s conflict-hit south region, a lawyer told the news agencies on Wednesday (Sept 14). The finding is a rare instance and could lead the way for landmark prosecutions of officials responsible for this from the state.
Earlier, the authorities claimed that the men were rebels, but the panel set up to investigate the killings found the four to be unarmed civilians. However, it must be noted that till date, no member of the Thai security forces has ever been jailed for extra judicial killings or torture in the conflict-hit south region of the country. The region has seen killing of more than 6,500 people in different incidents since 2004.
Most of the numbers in dead are civilians, killed by the rebels or in firing during the raids conducted by the Thai security forces. The incident took place last year on March 25 when Security forces gunned down 4 men (Two villagers and two students) in Ban To Chut village in Pattani province.
The inquest on Wednesday at Pattani court found that the men died due to “shooting by military personnel and policemen during a raid,” according to Abdulha Awaerputae, a lawyer from the Muslim Attorney’s Centre representing the families of the dead men. The court further declined to give details of the ruling.
With the ruling, campaigners hope to finally see criminal charges brought in the latest case to inflame resentment from local Muslim Malays towards the Buddhist-majority Thai state. “Sadly this is not an extraordinary case… we have handled similar cases before,” said Pornpen Khongkachonkiet of Amnesty International Thailand. “But in the end you never see any punishment for the officials.”
She further told that the Muslims of the region feel “nothing has changed since Tak Bai”, referencing the deaths in 2004 of Muslim protestors detained by authorities which was a loud call for the rebellion to this day. With the failed results from peace talks, rebels may now be forcing the issue on state through widened violence.
The officials from the state deny any claim of systematic human rights abuses and said their priority is to avoid harming civilians.
“When there has been a mistake, we cannot deny responsibility… but a court will decide whether authorities are guilty of rights violations,” Colonel Pramote Prom-In, spokesman for the southern army, said.