A widow who owns a house where suspected rebels allegedly stayed during a deadly a raid by security forces last week was convicted on a charge of sheltering insurgents fighting for an independent state in Thailand’s Deep South, the woman and officials said Friday.
Arma Wani, 41, a mother-of-four, said she was sentenced by a Pattani court to three months in jail and fined 10,000 baht (U.S. $320), after a one-day trial held on Thursday. She said the sentence was suspended for one year and could be dropped if she stayed out of trouble.
Her case is unusual because it is rare for women to be caught up in or prosecuted in cases connected to the insurgency in Thailand’s southern border region, according to observers.
Arma spoke to a BenarNews reporter in Pattani province on Friday.
“I came here yesterday afternoon. In the morning I went to the court and was fined 10,000 baht because I am the owner of the house,” she told BenarNews while staying at her sister’s home.
“I did not go back to my home which is about one km (six-tenths of a mile) away, but stayed with my younger sister. My children are scared and did not eat while I was in custody.”
Arma had been held for questioning at Fort Inkayuth Borihan, an army camp in Pattani province, following the July 3 raid that killed a soldier and a suspected insurgent.
Government security forces mounted the raid at the house in Pana-rae, a district of Pattani, in search of insurgents who were believed to be hiding inside. Authorities allege the suspects opened fire on the raiding party, provoking a shootout that left one person dead on each side.
Maj. Gen. Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for Internal Security Operations Command-4 (ISOC-4) – the military command in the Deep South – said investigators were able to establish the case against the widow.
“Arma behaved suspiciously and tried to conceal her role. Officers established the case of sheltering the insurgents and brought it to court,” Pramote told BenarNews, adding, “After the shootout, we talked to the homeowner and determined she gave shelter to the insurgents because they had been there for a couple of weeks.
Arma explained her actions on July 3.
“That day, I was with my four children at home when officials arrived calling for my nephew, and I said he was not here. I was about to tell them that there was a man in the house but gunfire broke out from inside,” she said.
Suspected insurgent Anwar Waedueramae, who was killed during the raid, had been with her brother-in-law for a couple of weeks, she said.
Arma said two men, her brother-in-law Yari Wansani and Ibrohem Wayang, were held for questioning but released on Thursday without being charged.
The majority-Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South has seen violence that has killed more than 7,000 since an insurgency reignited in 2004. The region encompasses the provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, as well as four districts in neighboring Songkhla.