To dispatch 548 arrested insurgents, security held beyond justice?
Among seemingly endless national political crisis and shocking insurgency taking place less frequently, the press and the generals seem lost the sight of southernmost restiveness; even though no one could deny that such race conflicts are still ongoing.
Meanwhile the enactment of “Special Laws” of security forces has been perceived by the locals as unfair legislation driving a bigger wedge in this Malay-speaking region.
The statistics of arrestments and imprisonments
In addition to The Criminal Procedure Code, there have also been two enacted laws: Martial Law and Emergency Decree applied in three deep - South provinces and four districts of Songkhla Province so as to halt the violence in this versatile region. Via the report of The National Security Council and The Internal Security Operations Command, the military has guaranteed the potential of these two laws and asked for cabinet approval to continually renew the enactment 16 times over the past four years and three months. Their recent report also claimed the effective results of such legislation that could facilitate the security forces’ progressive tasks for the proof of 7,825 suspected insurgents including 1,514 leaders, 2,461 operators, and 3,823 supporters.
Moreover, updated statistics of Southern Border Police Operations Center indicated that from the early 2004 to the end of July, 2009 there had been 6,683 security cases with 1,531 known wrongdoers. 7,001 arrest warrants were issued and led to the arrestment of 4,076 suspects.
Muslims arrested in overcrowded custodys
Above-mentioned, the negative effect of security legislation and a loophole in justice system seem to be out of the security forces’ report to government; though these caused 548 suspects arrested in the South prisons including 202 in Narathiwat Province, 143 in Yala Province, 83 in Pattani Province and 120 in Songkhla Province.
Alarmingly, all of them aren’t “the prisoners” but “the arrested suspects” who have been held without bail; even though they are still on trials and have not yet found guilty. The most importantly, they, the local Muslims also hold Thai citizenship like all of us.
Today there have been 518 awaiting trails. 284 defendants in 114 security cases (or 65 percent) were found guilty; 100 defendants in 61 cases (or 35 percent) were found not guilty. Some defendants are waiting for Appeal and Supreme Courts.
The point remains that over nearly 6 years of restiveness in the deep South, just 518 cases or 10 percent of all 6,683 have been in courts. Meanwhile such number of court cases is only 12.7 percent of all 4,076 arrested suspects the police claimed before.
Question raised in the situation is how long the rest have to remand in overcrowded custody before the beginning of their trails.
Broken home – insurgents’ children
Basically Muslims have extended families in which fathers are “the pillars” for many children and other family members. When they are arrested, their children and wives, subsequently, are in trouble.
Civil society organizations concerning arrested suspects and families used to estimate when each person was arrested, this could suffer at least 4 – 5 members in all generations of family. Information gathered from family-visit project shows that more than half of the arrested suspects have children. Some couples or bachelors also have old or ill parents to take care of.
When taking consideration for these children, there are 367 younger-than-18 year-old youths including 151 kindergartens, 122 students in formal educations, and the rest in informal education. Many students had to drop out of schools because their fathers were arrested and could no longer provide them tuition fees.
The Hayitaes is an apparent instance of 24 family members: 5 wives and 19 children facing bitterness as the other 5 guys in family were arrested.
The phrase “Father got arrested” has been heard widely across southernmost villages. Meanwhile the word coming in parallel is “insurgent’s kids” that hurt the feeling of all these children.
The very bottom of restricted hearts
To heal their suffering, economic and psychological treatments are needed immediately. Nevertheless, on the assumption that the arrested suspects might be ones who “support” or at least be related to the deep South insurgencies, the security forces thus have never issued these approaches. Civil society organizations such as Cross Cultural Foundation, Muslim Attorney Centre, Volunteer for Children and Youth Groups, and WE Peace have to takeover those charges instead. They continually constitute several activities: visiting the arrested suspects in prisons and morale boosting for the families of them.
“Meeting for family relationship” is another activity that took place for more than 100 arrested suspects in Narathiwat prison. A suspect arrested in Tak Bai incident of Narathiwat Province said that having lunch with his family made him happy and warm. In his faith, a person who could live together with other members in family gains the great benevolence from Allah. He/she should keep this tight relation carefully. For him, he was facing the test of Allah.
“If I had a chance to be released, I would go back home to run a farm. But if not, I could stay anywhere I’m still in the heart of Allah. Exception for the fairness of Islam, I’ve never believed in any world fairness,” said he.
In that event, religion-teaching project was provided and could heal his suffering. “I feel better when participating in religion-teaching activity since it brought us back to concentrate on Islam. The test of Allah could take place everywhere.
His wife revealed that it was the first time in this year that they had lunch together. She also had a lot of sympathy for her husband.
“Just one day I came in the prison, I could sense the overwhelming of depression and desperation. My husband, however, has to live in a very narrow square room with tight rules for years. So I wish he’ll be released soon,” stated she.
Pornphen Kongkajhonkead, The director of justice approaching and legal protection project of Cross Cultural Foundation, pointed out what the arrested suspects and families prefer the most was the opportunity to go back home or at least to be released on bail. Meanwhile the process of justice still takes too long period and has been questioned for the fairness.
“What we could do right now is to generate an activity that would bring them to spend time together. In the recent meeting, many arrested suspects held their kids happily. Some met each other for the first time since the fathers were arrested while the children haven’t been born yet. The scene we saw here were the fathers tightly holding their kids all day long,” stated she.
“It is benevolence and compassion we could provide them as the members of common society. The activity like this might let them know we care and never abandon them. Our concern would keep them fighting for the future.”
The loophole of justice Process
Under justice system applied in this sensitive region, Pornphen reflected the perception of the arrested suspects that it allows the officials to charge them too easily without the unverified procedures of scrutiny. The number of the arrested suspects, therefore, seems to increase dramatically till prisons become overcrowded. In this circumstance, rather than a larger prison she, in the name of civil-society sector, begged for the effective and well-timed process of justice in which the arrested suspects could realize the step they are on and what they will face next. Many still have to live their hopeless lives in prisons.
“We try to push the officials to launch the justice-process mapping but have never seen any responses. Some relevant people perceive the situation of the deep South restiveness like fighting in the chess match. The arrested suspects were seen as just chess pieces picked out of the board; even though they are also alive and have families waiting for. Throwing them into prisons and turning back on them aren’t what regulators’ supposed to do,” expressed she.
“People who could be highly praised only are southernmost prison officials. They allow the arrested suspects to practice their religion freely and let their families to visit them regularly. It seems to be democratic sphere in these prisons. They also help us set useful activities there. The officials in other divisions of justice system could concern and take following steps like theirs as professionals”
Similar to the above viewpoint, Chanchao Chaiyanukij, Director General designate of The Department of Probation overseeing the process of justice in the deep South provinces for years, analyzed that this region lacks the clarified policy on legislation. Such shortcoming encourages the insurgencies to commit extreme riots arbitrarily.
“Justice system of Thailand relies basically on the testimony of the witnesses; however in this high mistrust region, no one prefers to take risk by giving the officials any evidences. This is the main cause that should be concerned seriously,” suggested he.
So far Ministry of Justice took the first step on Strategic plan (B.E.2553 – 2557) launched especially for the development of justice process in the southernmost provinces under the conduction of committee headed by Prime Minister. This plan consists of 5 strategies constituted on the purpose that policy could be made more clarified and unified. Rehabilitating programs for insurgent prisoners and the victims of insurgencies were also created so as to heal the sufferings from this region’s legal loophole.
Is Security Bill the real solution?
All legislation particularly Emergency Decree brought in this Muslim-majority region, seem to be a core apparatus that security forces keep insisting on its effectiveness for the hostile climate of southernmost. Meanwhile the local villagers have been perceived it as injustice that widely affects their lives; Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, therefore, offered to replace such law with Internal Security Bill B.E. 2551.
In case these both laws are applied in this restive region, the point remains whether they could create the further conflict as such Security Bill must be brought only in the situation that is less hazardous to address Emergency Decree. Chanchao pointed out that Security Bill could foster rehabilitating program for insurgent prisoners and open the room for the government to step up into conflict dissolving.
Awaiting decision of government on “policy of southernmost legislation” seems uncertain, while the arrested suspects and families impatiently look forward to a proper solution even without the cue of its implementation.