Thai Deep South: Authorities Compensate Slain Civilians’ Families

Mariyam Ahmad and Matahari Ismail
Pattani and Narathiwat, Thailand
2020-10-06
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201006-TH-compensation-620.jpg Somkiat Polprayoon, director of the Thai Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (left), greets Surida Imarohim, the widow of Budiman Mali, while Budiman’s mother holds his son during a compensation ceremony in Yala, Oct. 6, 2020.
BenarNews

Authorities in Thailand’s Deep South on Tuesday handed out compensatory payments of 1 million baht (U.S. $32,000) each to the families of three loggers killed by military forces who mistook them for insurgents, but one victim’s father was still demanding justice for his dead son.

Budiman Mali, 26, Hafisi Mada-o, 24, and Manasi Sama-ae, 27, were cutting logs in the Tawae mountain range in Narathiwat, a province in the southern border region, when a group of soldiers assigned to the 45th Ranger Task Force spotted them and opened fire on Dec. 16, 2019.

Hafisi’s father, Ahmad Mada-o, expressed appreciation for the payment, saying he could not use it to build a house or buy a rubber plantation, but it would not compensate for his spiritual loss.

“The remedy is not able to erase the pain in our hearts, we are innocent,” Ahmad told BenarNews at the ceremony in Yala province. “The authorities must have sincerity, want justice and remain unbiased to work in the Deep South.”

On Tuesday, the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC), the government body that administers the Deep South, held a ceremony to hand out the compensation to the three families along with a fund for Budiman’s son to attend school through college.

One day after the shooting, the military reversed its initial accusation that the men had fired first at the troops and distributed 500,000 baht ($16,000) to each of the families. The soldiers had been searching for suspected insurgents who had killed 15 civilians and a police officer at two checkpoints in nearby Yala province the previous month.

At that time, Lt. Gen. Pornsak Poolsawat, the then-commander of the 4th Army Region that oversees Narathiwat and the rest of the Deep South, confirmed the men’s innocence and asked that a local human rights protection team of religious leaders, civilians and officials conduct an independent investigation to ensure fairness and provide a base for possible compensation.

Based on the initial investigation, the three men were unarmed and found next to timber, said Pornpilai Bovornnaringdesh, who led the human rights protection committee.

Autopsy hearing

Hafisi’s father, Ahmad, joined by a human right activist and a police official, said an autopsy hearing was held last month. Another hearing will be held in March 2021 that could establish the case to bring criminal prosecution, they said.

“The matter is under a court hearing on the autopsy. All involved in the shooting reported to the police and they were not taken into custody because they were not subject to an arrest warrant,” police Maj. Gen. Narin Busaman, chief of the Narathiwat police bureau, told BenarNews on Tuesday.

He declined to reveal the names of the soldiers. Within days of the shooting, two soldiers had surrendered to police, BenarNews reported on Dec. 20, 2019.

“As far as the justice goes, it is not enough … until the wrong-doers are punished,” Ahmad said.

Yaena Salamae, an activist who assists crime victims, is working with the families.

“As far as I know, all of them want to go all the way through with justice … it will be more pleasing to have the wrong-doers punished, which has not happened yet,” Yaena told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, retired Rear Adm. Somkiat Polprayoon, the SBPAC director, said the compensation was better than nothing.

“Though the compensation is also aimed at serving as an emotional remedy. Though it can’t fulfill the losses, it hopefully gives them opportunity and improves their quality of life,” he said.

More than 7,000 people have been killed in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South – which consists of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province – since a separatist insurgency reignited in 2004.

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