Thailand Holds 14 Over Hospital Seizure by Deep South Rebels

BenarNews Staff
Pattani, Thailand
160324-TH-insurgent-620.jpg A bullet pierced a window at Cho-irong Hospital when a group of insurgents entered the facility and shot at police and soldiers, March 13, 2016.

Military officials in Thailand’s Deep South said Thursday they had detained and questioned people in connection with the armed takeover of a local hospital by insurgents on March 13.

Since a group of rebels briefly seized the Cho-irong hospital in Narathiwat province while mounting an attack on a nearby military installation, Thai security forces have searched for suspects in districts throughout Narathiwat and neighboring Yala province, said a spokesman for regional office of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

The searches led to the detentions of up to 14 people, Col. Yuthanam  Petchmuang, deputy spokesman for ISOC 4, told reporters at the regional command’s forward office in nearby Pattani province.

“We have adequate reasons to question three suspected individuals for having supporting roles in the seizure of Cho-irong hospital,” Yuthanam said Thursday.

Without naming any suspects, he added that 11 more suspects were detained for playing other supporting roles in the incident at the hospital on March 13.

He said the detainees were questioned separately by military intelligence officers at three different military installations in the Deep South.

The hospital seizure occurred amid a series of attacks launched by rebels on the 56th anniversary of the founding of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the largest and most powerful of various insurgent groups and factions waging a separatist war in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking southern border region.

Since 2004 at least 6,000 people have died in the conflict. The flurry of rebel attacks on March 13 and 14 took place amid ongoing efforts by Thailand’s military-controlled government to persuade the rebel groups to resume formal peace talks for the first time since December 2013.

‘Relatives must be informed’

According to a human right activist, the military has an obligation to reveal the suspects’ names and be more clear about their whereabouts.

“In tracking down people for legal proceedings, if some are invited for questioning or being detained, their relatives must be informed about detention places and allowed a visit, to be in line with laws and human rights principles,” said Somchai Suthiklom, chairman of a human rights subcommittee for the Deep South.

“That shall lessen conflicts and create trust among parties involved,” he added.

During the takeover of the hospital by between 10 to 50 rebels, the insurgents reportedly shot at a nearby military outpost while patients and medical staff were inside the building.

The seizure drew an outcry from the U.N. Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia and U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. Both issued statements deploring the actions of the rebels, saying they had violated international law by taking over the hospital and endangering the lives of patients and medical workers.


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