11 July 2024

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday blamed what he described as a collusion among some military officers for the incident in the conflict-ridden south of Thailand in 2004 in which as many as 85 people died in an army operation.

Despite demands by human rights groups for him to be held responsible, Thaksin denied any knowledge of the incident which 78 people, mostly young Muslim youths, suffocated after being arrested at a protest site and later stacked on top of each other in the back of army trucks. Seven others were shot dead earlier while protesting in front of a police station in Tak Bai District, Narathiwat.

“I had nothing to do with it,” Thaksin said in his weekly interview on Clubhouse with his supporters.

A religious ceremony was held in Tak Bai District yesterday to mark the 18th anniversary of the incident which has been seen as a turning point for the years-long Muslim insurgency in the deep south.

Thaksin recalled that he was playing golf when he was informed of a protest by hundreds of people to demand the release of a group of detainees held at the Tak Bai police station on charges of supplying weapons to Muslim insurgents.

“The police asked for my instruction. I told them it could not be tolerated as law must be law. That’s all I said,” Thaksin said.

As the confrontation escalated, authorities started using water canons to break up the protest, leading to clashes between police and the protesters.  “I think six people died on the spot. Local authorities, police and to some extent the army, were responsible for what happened,” said Thaksin, who is now living in self-exile in Dubai.

He claimed that he had no knowledge of what happened after the protest was broken up and scores of protesters were arrested.

“I knew arrests were made. But after that I knew nothing. Nobody kept me updated until I found out later that many people had died,” he said.

As prime minister, Thaksin was known for his tough approach in dealing with the Muslim insurgency in the three southernmost provinces and openly belittled their capacity to cause unrests.

Thaksin claimed he was later told by a Malaysian special branch police officer that the whole incident was staged by a group of military officers “who did not want me in power.”

Thaksin described the incident as a collusion by military officers whom he did not identify.  “Those who were responsible for this were military officers.  After the protest in front of Tak Bai police station, everything was in the hand of the military. I knew nothing from that point on,” he said.

However, Thaksin said as the prime minister he owes the families of the victims an apology.

Eighteen years after the massacre, no members of the security forces have been prosecuted, despite a government inquiry condemning the actions of security forces on that day.