Thailand Extends State of Emergency in Restive Deep South for 65th Time

Mariyam Ahmad
Pattani, Thailand
2021-09-14
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Thailand Extends State of Emergency in Restive Deep South for 65th Time Police investigators inspect the wreckage of a car bomb following an explosion outside the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center in Yala province, Thailand, March 17, 2020.
[AFP]

The cabinet of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha agreed to extend a state of emergency in Thailand’s insurgency-wracked Deep South provinces for another three months on Tuesday, the 65th extension of a decree that gives security forces detention powers.

NGOs, right groups and lawyers criticized the extension, saying the military has for many years exploited the emergency’s powers by allegedly committing human rights abuses.

“The cabinet agreed to extend the decree in the Deep South for another three months from Sept. 20 to Dec. 19, 2021,” Deputy Spokeswoman at the Prime Minister’s Officer Ratchada Tanadirek said.

Seven districts in the Malay-speaking Muslim-dominant southern border provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani are covered under the Internal Security Act and are not included in the emergency decree.

The first emergency decree was imposed in July 2005. Officials had said back then it was aimed at ensuring peace in the Deep South, which had suffered from insurgency-related violence beginning a little over a year earlier. Since 2005, the emergency has been continuously extended, three months at a time.

Deep South Watch, a Pattani-based think-tank, reported that more than 7,000 people have been killed in the region in violence related to the separatist insurgency over the last 17 years.

A lawyer with the Muslim Attorney Center Foundation that assists suspected insurgents said the emergency was good for the authorities while people paid a price.

“These security laws in the region yield satisfactory enforcement such as swift control of a situation and ease of work in rough circumstances, but on the other hand they affect the lives and freedom of people,” Abdulqahhar Aweaputeh, the chief of the Muslim Attorney Center Foundation based in Yala, told BenarNews on Tuesday.

He said suspected insurgents have been detained without charges being filed against them for several days or weeks, often without a lawyer’s assistance and proper relative visits.

COVID-19 effects

Pornpen Kongkachonkiet, director of the Cross-Cultural Foundation, said there was no need to extend the emergency decree because the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a slowdown in violence.

“The situation is like what happened in Bangkok’s Din Daeng area where the government used the decree to muffle the protesters who voiced their dissent,” she said, referring to protests against Prayuth.

Meanwhile, an official in the Deep South said that although the situation was relatively calm, the decree was needed to allow ISOC-4, the military’s regional command, to keep peace.

“We need to have the special laws to control this contested area. It has not returned to normalcy yet, there are insurgents in Deep South,” the official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Face-to-face peace talks between Thailand and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (the National Revolutionary Front, or BRN), which is the largest of the armed insurgent groups in the Deep South, have been stalled since March 2020 because of the pandemic. But both sides said they continued to meet online through technical-level panels, with Malaysia serving as facilitator.

The last virtual meeting occurred in February, Abdul Rahim Noor, the Malaysian broker of the southern Thai peace talks, confirmed to BenarNews at the time.

Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Nontarat Phaicharoen in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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