Five Men in Thai Deep South Summoned Over Controversial T-shirt

BenarNews Staff
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160707-TH-south-attitude-620.jpg This screenshot from social media shows a photo of five former members of a Muslim student association in the Deep South wearing T-shirts that have led authorities to summon them for “attitude adjustment,” July 7, 2016.

Updated at 8:55 a.m. ET on 2016-07-08

The Thai military has summoned five Muslims from Thailand’s restive Deep South for so-called “attitude adjustments” after a group photo of the men appeared on social media showing them in T-shirts that might be seen as promoting regional independence, officials said Thursday.

The men (pictured) were summoned for indefinite interrogation and detention sessions for wearing shirts that featured a map of Thailand’s five southern border provinces and a Malay-language message that read “The Great Land of Northern Malayu,” according to officials.

Authorities said they were also looking for people who flew a banner outside a mosque in Pattani province that called for self-determination for the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region, where a separatist insurgency has lasted for decades. More than 6,500 people have died in violence linked to the conflict since it re-ignited in 2004.

Col. Pramote Prom-in, a spokesman for the forward office of Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4), told reporters that government lawyers were considering whether the T-shirts and the banner could be construed as rebellious.

“The ISOC 4 has asked its legal section to see if the actions have violated any Thai laws or if they have instigated acts of rebellion,” Pramote said.

“The security forces know all five [men pictured wearing T-shirts]. Initially we have ordered the field units to summon them to talk because the actions are close to offending laws,” he later told BenarNews, adding, “We called them for attitude adjustment.”

The five men in the photo are former members of PERMAS, an association of Muslim students in Thailand’s Deep South region, sources said.

Hundreds summoned since 2014

Since seizing power in a military coup in May 2014, Thailand’s junta has rounded up government critics and journalists for “attitude adjustments.”

Those adjustments began the day after Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha – the current prime minister – took power, and 22 members of Pheu Thai – the party of deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – were summoned for such sessions.

Since then, more than 900 people have been ordered to undergo adjustments at military camps or through home visits, according to iLaw, a human rights advocacy group.

Provocative banner

In the incident in which authorities were looking for the perpetrators, unidentified men flew the banner at the Thadan Mosque in Pattani’s Yaring district.

The banner said “self-determination” and included an Arabic excerpt from the Quran that translated into “Allah shall not alter the status of any human races until they changed theirs.”

Thadan Mosque is in the same village as the former Jihad Witaya School. Authorities seized the school in 2005 over allegations that it had served as a training center for local insurgents. The allegations led to its headmaster, Doonloh Wae-mano, fleeing the country.

His family is now challenging government plans to turn the property into an Islamic educational center.

Banyan Wae-mano, whose family owned Jihad Witaya before losing it to the government, told BenarNews that he did not understand why the banner was considered illegal.

‘Constitutionally indivisible’

The creator of the T-shirt, who asked to not be identified, told BenarNews that the map of five provinces showed the five jurisdictions of Tadika (primary-grade schools) in Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, Songkhla and Satun, and it was not a call for these five provinces to separate from the rest of Thailand.

MARA Patani, a panel representing southern rebel groups and factions in peace talks with the junta, originally included the five provinces but later dropped Satun in its negotiations with the government, former key negotiator Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong had told BenarNews. The most recent negotiations stalled in April just weeks after Nakrob was removed from his role.

The T-shirt creator said he and others were merely promoting education in the five provinces.

However, according to according to Col. Peerawat Sangthong, the spokesman for Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) based in Bangkok, the design on the shirt goes against Thailand’s constitution.

“To share those pictures is not appropriate as Thailand is constitutionally indivisible. Such incidents cause negative impact to Thai society,” he told reporters.

An earlier version incorrectly identified the ISOC 4 spokesman in Pattani.


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