Amnesty accuses Thai insurgents of war crimes

Google Thailand and what you get are hotels, weather forecasts, pictures of beaches and cocktails, salads and seafood, backpacking blogs and travel guides. You have to scroll down some way before you get to any nitty gritty news. So it is no surprise that our new report, which accuses separatist groups in Southern Thailand of war crimes, might come as something of a surprise to some people here in the UK.

The report, details how nearly 5000 people have been killed and thousands injured in the last eight years in four southern Thailand provinces and accuses insurgents of deliberately spreading terror among the civilian population by purposely targeting people with no role in the conflict such as farmers, teachers, students, religious leaders and civil servants.

In the South of Thailand, Ethnic Malay Muslims form the majority of the population in the area, in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. The Malay Muslims, have been violently challenging the Thai state for the best part of a decade.  Some two-thirds of those killed in the conflict were civilians, the majority of them Muslims too, whom insurgents believe are too close to the government.

Yet as Reuters puts it, “The insurgents are thought to be pursuing separatist aims, but the various shadowy groups have rarely put forward demands or shown any interest in negotiating with the state.”

Without clear aims, and with seemingly no innocent off limits, the tragic irony is that the insurgents seem to be attacking many of the very people on whose behalf they are ostensibly fighting, destroying their lives.

The pathos of the report’s title, “They took nothing but his life” is profound, and is taken from this testimony:

“Fifteen year-old Zakariya Wilson, a rubber tapper, was killed by insurgents in Yaha district in September 2009.  “I have no idea why they killed him, as he was just a boy and a good kid. They took nothing but his life,” said his father.

”It’s a grim read of terror and killings which take everything, and change nothing. Nothing but the lives of the bereaved families left behind.

The report also points to the inadequate response of successive Thai governments in tackling the situation and reports of torture in detention levelled against the Thai counter-insurgency operation. Read more, here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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