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Thailand: Five people beheaded in wave of brutal insurgent attacks on civilians

Bodies set ablaze with note saying: “This is revenge on state officials”

Amnesty International today called for an immediate end to a recent wave of brutal attacks against civilians by armed insurgents in southern Muslim-majority provinces of Thailand.

The number and brutality of attacks by insurgents have risen sharply in 2009, including bombings, shootings and five confirmed beheadings. Attacks have in some cases been indiscriminate, causing injury and death to civilians. Others have been targeted at Thai security forces or at civilians deemed to be cooperating or collaborating with the authorities.

In one particularly tragic case, four members of the same family have been killed, leaving only three young Children's rights.

Amnesty International Director Kate Allen said:

“The regular targeting of civilians shows how the insurgents in southern Thailand have failed to abide by the most basic principles of humanity.

“These attacks on civilians are unlawful and totally unacceptable.”

Amnesty International called on the insurgents to respect minimum standards of humanity reflected in international humanitarian law, including the prohibition against direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks, and the requirement to treat humanely those who have been captured.

After the number of violent incidents and casualties in the south dropped significantly in 2008, insurgents are clearly attempting to reassert themselves in 2009. Moreover, attacks in 2009 have been notable for their brutality. Recorded killings include:

-On 31 January in Rue-Soh district, Narathiwat, Awae Salama, a former Islamic religion teacher who sold goods near a local mosque, was killed in a drive-by shooting on his return home from the district market.

-On 16 February in Waeng district, Narathiwat, five civilians, including one student, were wounded by a bomb that exploded at approximately 7am while a team of soldiers was escorting monks on their alms round.

-On 22 February in Raman district, Yala, a civilian couple engaged in tapping rubber were killed and the man beheaded.
-On 7 March in Pattani, two middle-aged brothers, one an assistant village headman, were shot dead as they rode a motorcycle, after which their bodies were set ablaze and a note was left at the scene: “This is revenge on state officials”.

-On 12 March in Krongpenang district, Yala, Laila Paaitae Daoh, a human rights defender, was shot and killed in broad daylight, becoming the fourth member of her family (after her two brothers and husband) to be killed in the south; she is survived only by her three young Children's rights.

-On 27 March in Khok Pho district, Pattani, Bhuvanart Yeeji, a teacher, was shot and killed, while Solahuddin Hayeewaeji, a school manager at Muhammadeeya School, was shot and injured while meeting with other teachers.

Amnesty International called on leaders of the insurgency to immediately cease all attacks on civilians, to instruct all those under their command not to attack civilians or their property under any circumstances, to remove anyone suspected of perpetrating such attacks from positions where they could repeat them, and to publicly condemn all such attacks.

The insurgency in the southern Muslim-majority provinces of Thailand, which reignited in early 2004, has claimed over 3,500 lives, the majority of whom are civilians. The insurgents are a disparate and disjointed assortment of groups that have never fully revealed their organisational structure, leadership or demands, but are believed to operate in a structure of at least partly autonomous cells. They seldom claim responsibility for their attacks, nor have they credibly expressed a willingness to negotiate with the Thai government.

Amnesty International fully recognises that the Royal Thai government has a right and a duty to protect civilians in the south as it wages its counter-insurgency campaign. On 14 January 2009, Prime Minister Abhisit noted that the Emergency Decree in effect in the south had been renewed 14 times since it was first invoked in July 2005, and indicated his intention to review its provisions toward eventually lifting it and asserting civilian control over the security forces there.

Amnesty International has previously called for Section 14 of that Decree, which confers immunity from prosecution on officials for human rights violations—including torture—to be amended or revoked. Despite a December 2008 decision in the post-mortem inquest into the death in custody case of imam Yapha Kaseng that he was tortured to death, the government has yet to initiate a prosecution against alleged perpetrators.

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