21 May 2024

A student human rights advocacy group in Thailand’s Deep South, PerMAS, has called on the Government to stop arming civilians and to stop dragging them into the armed conflict between government officials and southern insurgents.

In a statement issued today (Thursday), the group called on the “Thai state” to reconsider its policy of arming civilians, like village defence volunteers, to fight the insurgents and to not engage the civilian population in the armed conflict.

PerMAS urged the Government and the insurgent groups to obey international humanitarian laws and to return to the negotiating table to settle their conflict by peaceful means.

The student movement also called on all political parties to adopt peace talks as a national agendum, based on international principles and respect for the political spirit of the people.

While falling short of condemning the insurgent attack on a village guard unit, in which 15 defence volunteers and civilians died on Tuesday night, PerMAS did mention the post-attack tightening of security, with security forces setting up checkpoints on all routes leading to the Yala township where the attack occurred, and the searching of all vehicles and checking of all ID cards.

Noting that the armed conflict has dragged on for 15 years, PerMAS said that, unless the “Thai state” replaces its military-led policy with a politics-led policy, there could be no solution.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command, Maj-Gen Thanatip Sawangsaeng, said today that security forces had detained one suspect for questioning in connection with Tuesday night’s attack, adding that forensic tests on bullet shells and slugs found at the scene confirmed that they were fired from guns which had been used in previous attacks by insurgents.

The location of the outpost raid is in a small community where many villagers joined the volunteer force, said Thanatip, as he praised their courage and sacrifice for putting up a fight against the insurgents, despite being outgunned and outnumbered.