The widow of abducted lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, who has been providing legal assistance to Muslim suspects in the three southern border provinces, voiced concerns during an address at a press conference by Amnesty International to launch their annual report on Thursday.
She said women raped or sexually assaulted by soldiers were compensated with sums of up to Bt200,000 and forced not to reveal the matter – or forced to marry the soldiers, who then escaped prosecution.
“None of the security officials who committed human rights violations have been prosecuted or faced criminal action,’ she said.
When these soldiers completed their mission and were transferred out of the restive area, the Muslim women had to move with their husbands. “But most of the marriages end in divorce because the women cannot adapt to a culture and society they are unfamiliar with,’ she said.
The youngest Muslim girl found to have been raped and made pregnant was a 10-year-old from Yala, she added.
Although the number of human rights violations involving torture, abduction and murder have subsided, summary executions are on the rise including the murder of suspects acquitted by the courts. Locals have lost faith in the justice system because investigators cannot find enough evidence to prosecute suspects, resulting in them being acquitted.
Angkhana said the government had won praise for its rehabilitation programmes and giving compensation to people abused by state officials, but she questioned the mindset that money could replace justice. “Money cannot compensate human value and dignity. A society that lacks justice will never achieve peace.”
She said the government had injected a huge amount of development funding into the area, but had failed to distribute the funds for the purpose of human resource development. She said the funds ended up in the hands of local leaders. This made people wonder if the government was only using the money to gain their support.
The government’s plan to bring peace to the Deep South was full of holes because it did not include a process for finding out the truth and providing justice to victims. The major problem was, in fact, a structural one. “Thai society is in dire need of police, military and justice reforms,’ she said.
Angkhana also voiced concern about the country’s lack of legislation on abduction and forced disappearances, which have deprived victims of justice and legal protection.
The government, she said, had resorted to forced disappearances to get rid of political opponents, labour leaders and activists. She said this had been going on since 1947, with the disappearance of prominent figures like Tiang Sirikhan, Porn Malithong, Thanong Pho-arn and her husband Somchai – the only disappearance in which a victim’s family had been able to get the matter to court.
Because the country lacked laws on abduction and forced disappearance, the Appeals Court refused to allow her and her husband’s family to lodge a case as joint plaintiffs.
“Key evidence in the case was dismissed because suspects were police or law enforcers. It is therefore impossible that we can expect fair justice,’ she said.
Information compiled by the Justice for Peace Foundation on 40 forced disappearances, found that 94 per cent of the “disappeared” were men and 86 per cent were ethnic minorities such as Thai Malay men. The foundation says the government’s use of military force in the South and the ‘War on drugs’ were state policies that led to forced disappearances.
During the Thaksin regime in 2003, almost 3,000 people were killed in the ‘War on drugs’. There were only two instances in which relatives were able to bring the cases to trial.
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said he and party legal experts would meet today to discuss legal action against the Facebook users, who use the white Guy Fawkes mask from the Hollywood movie V for Vendetta as their profile photo.
Prompong said the government believed the group belonged to the same team that defaced the PM’s Office website recently with derogatory messages.
On Saturday, the FB users posted a message that said: “The people’s army has awakened. We pronounce here that we will bring down and eradicate the Thaksin regime from Thailand.”
This message was posted repeatedly on websites of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the Facebook pages of Thaksin, his sister PM Yingluck Shinawatra, his son Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra, and the Government House website Thai Khu Fah.
Sangium Sonthirat, 41, died in the car, which was immediately engulfed in flames, while Anuwat Pinthuwong, 47 – the car owner – died on his way to hospital. The two were friends.
Police said the firework, which was detonated by an electrical current, was found to have been mistakenly launched without its guidance system after the person responsible for launching the rocket forgot to include it in the rocket’s launch set up.
As a result, the rocket went off in the wrong direction and hit Anuwat’s car. At the time of the accident, he was trying to find a parking space so that he could attend the traditional Bang Fai rocket event.
On contact with the car, the rocket exploded, engulfing the car in flames in a matter of seconds. Onlookers rushed to help pull Anuwat from the blaze, but not before he suffered first degree burns. He died before reaching the hospital.
The Wat That community annually holds their Bang Fai merit making ceremony with a rocket and firework competition from May 25-29 – during which 250 rockets are launched into the sky.
After the accident, the event was cancelled. Police are now investigating the accident to find out who is responsible.
An official said people who joined the rocket competition were required to pay Bt1,000 for insurance in case of accidents. Organisers of the event were expected to collect a total of Bt250,000 in insurance payments.
— Phuket Gazette Editors