Thai Authorities Arrest 4 Suspects in Policeman’s Killing in Deep South

Mariyam Ahmad
Pattani, Thailand
Thai Authorities Arrest 4 Suspects in Policeman’s Killing in Deep South Thai security officers inspect the roadside scene where a police officer was gunned down in Koke Pho, a district in southern Thailand’s Pattani province, Dec. 7, 2020.

Authorities in Thailand’s Deep South said Wednesday they had arrested four suspected insurgents allegedly linked to the killing of a policemen in Pattani province earlier this week.

Lt. Weerasak Sarapon, 54, was shot at multiple times while riding a motorcycle away near a hospital in Koke Pho district on Monday evening. Ten spent shells from an assault rifle and two shells from a 9-mm handgun were found near the scene, police said.

The men on a motorbike who shot officer Weerasak were both dressed as women, Col. Chalong Leknoi, the chief of Koke Pho police station, said. The officer’s killing was the second deadly shooting in the troubled southern border region this week.

Authorities said CCTV footage posted on social media showed the movements of the suspected gunmen. A military spokesman said government security personnel traced the motorcycle’s routes and arrested four suspects from Bahogaying, a village in the same district. One was arrested Tuesday and three on Wednesday.

“We exercise the power of martial law to hold them after we found four of them at Bahogaying village in Tambon Naket in Koke Pho,” Col. Harnpol Petchmuang, the commander of the 43th Ranger Regiment Task Force, told reporters Wednesday. “We questioned them but we haven’t pressed charges yet.”

Harnpol declined to name the suspects, but said they were being held in an interrogation center at Fort Inkayuth Borihan, a military camp in Pattani.

The Network of People Affected by Emergency Law (JASAD), a local humanitarian group, urged the authorities to treat the detained men with respect.

“JASAD hopes that involved officials treat those who were detained by special law with respect to human rights and a right to access to assistances in all matters equally to others,” it said on its Facebook page.

Since the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) insurgent group announced a COVID-19 ceasefire across the Deep South on April 3, at least 37 people have been killed including 14 insurgents, and another 69 people have been injured in regional violence, according to information compiled by BenarNews from police reports.

Monday’s shooting along with the killing of a civilian man in neighboring Narathiwat province the next morning were the first in the region since Nov. 24, when two men were shot and killed in separate districts in Pattani.

The Deep South encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province. It has been the flash point of armed conflict between government troops and the BRN, Thailand’s largest separatist insurgent group, over several decades.

Since violence reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed, according to Deep South Watch, a think-tank based in Pattani.

Government officials had been negotiating since August 2015 for a peace agreement with MARA Patani, an umbrella group representing regional insurgent groups in talks moderated by Malaysia.

Earlier this year, Thailand began direct negotiations with BRN leaders, but the pandemic forced a delay in full-scale meetings, according to Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh, the chief of Thailand’s delegation in peace talks.

Lt. Gen. Kriangkrai Srirak, who serves on the Thai delegation and commands the 4th Army Region that oversees the Deep South, said both sides had since been communicating online.

“We made some progress on the peace talks, we used social media to communicate and it has been ongoing,” he told reporters last month. “Peace talks, I believe, are the way to peacefully and sustainably resolve the Deep South violence.”


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.