Extrajudicial killing – a standard practice to close a crime case?
Story by Prachya Toeta
Extrajudicial killings or “death warrants” as they were widely called in the restive Deep South still remain a topical issue closely watched by human rights advocates even though the killings are regarded by security forces as a successful achievement. At issue is a disturbing question about whether extrajudicial killing is a standard practice to close a crime case?
The question encompasses two issues: Firstly, did the dead victims use arms to resist the authorities? And, secondly, the claim by the authorities that the victims were wanted criminals and that several warrants had been issued for their arrests.
The question was recently raised for discussion in the aftermath of a number of extrajudicial killings of suspected militants by security forces, including the most media-hyped incident on November 17 when six suspected militants were gunned down by securities forces at house No 192, village five of Ban Phru Jood, Tambon Kuan Noree of Kok Pho district, Pattani province. One of the dead victims, Aha Madue Ramae Hayeema, aka Pator, 34, a resident of Tambon Nakate, Kok Pho district, was alleged by the authorities as a core member of the RKK separatist gang against whom 12 arrest warrants have been issued.
Two days afterward on November 21, a suspected militant, identified as Mahama Mara, 28, of Tambon Baro, Yaha district of Yaha, was shot dead in a clash with security forces on the Huyongsu-ngae mountain. It was claimed that the victim was wanted for five security-related cases.
The third controversial incident occurred on June 19 this year when four suspected militants were gunned down by authorities in Bannang Star district, Yala province. One of the victims, Masobee Yakoh, was alleged to be a leading figure of the separatist movement who was wanted for 16 security-related cases.
Mr Sitthipong Chanviroj, secretary-general of the Muslim Lawyers Centre, said that extrajudicial killings were permissible in case the authorities were fired at first by criminal suspects and they retaliated as a self defence act. But the authorities must warn the suspects to surrender first.
The lawyer noted that the extrajudicial killings at Kuan Noree were not the first case of its kind as several other cases had taken place before, but they rarely made it the court for an enquiry because the relatives of many of the victims did not raise the cases to the court or simply because they were not aware of their legal rights.
“One key issue in extrajudicial killing case is that it was now known for sure whether there was actually a clash between the authorities and the suspected militants since most of the information were one-sided from the authorities,” said Mr Sitthipong.
He said that one of the six victims killed in Kuan Noree was his former client who was just acquitted by the court. He said he was worried that the authorities might resort to extrajudicial killing to close a crime case.
Mr Sitthipong also pointed out that he felt two many arrest warrants had been issued too easily in the Deep South. This might result to the case about one suspect facing arrest for another case after having just been acquitted.
The Muslim lawyer also raised question about the use of information provided by informants to justify the authorities to request for arrest warrants against their suspects. He said that it was possible that the informants might have conflicts of interests with the suspects or might want to take revenge the suspects, thus it was necessary that the information they provided must be screened carefully.
Mr Kamol Thomyavit, a member of the House sub-committee to study problems in the restive South, noted that extrajudicial killings or “death warrants” might breed hatred among young Muslims towards the authorities, driving them to take revenge attacks.
He said he felt incident involving extrajudicial killings was often blown out of proportion as if to give credibility to the authorities for their achievement. He also pointed out that some wordings used in broadcast media when presenting news about violence in the region sounded divisive and made the southern people feel as if they all wanted to secede from Thailand.
Pol Maj-Gen Pichet Pitisetthaphant, the Pattani provincial police chief, however maintained that the security forces had followed all the rules of engagement before they stormed the suspects’ hideout in Kuan Noree which eventually resulted to all the six suspects being shot dead.
He said that a village headman had been asked to negotiate with the suspects to surrender but they refused and wanted to fight to their death.
He also maintained that most of the information about activities of suspected militants received by the authorities came from the people as they were more willing to cooperate with the authorities.