Number of bombings decreases in Thailand's Muslim south

Violence lessens in Thailand's south though continues to be a reality in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and some districts of Songkhla

Photo by: AA (Archive)
Photo by: AA (Archive)

According to local media in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and some districts of Songkhla violence continues to be a reality

Although 2015 marked a significant drop in the number of bomb attacks in Thailand's Muslim south, activists expressed concerns on Monday about arbitrary arrests and torture in the area during military detentions.

Local media reported Muhammad Ayub Pathan - the chairman of the Southern Civil Society Council - as saying that for many of those in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and some districts of Songkhla violence continues to be a reality.

"But a socio-political space has been created since the peace dialogue [initiated in 2013 by the post coup goverment of then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra] was inaugurated three years ago," Pathan told the Bangkok Post, calling the breakthrough "remarkable."

According to statistics compiled by the Southernmost Provinces Research Database, the number of bombings decreased 49 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, and was down 65 percent from 2007.

While welcoming the decline in violence, other civil society leaders, however, were more guarded in their optimism.

"At the policy level, the security forces preach a nice set of procedures but actual operations for patrols, containment, search and arrests are something else entirely," Anchana Heemmina, director of the Duay Jai group, which has been investigating the human rights situation in the south, told the Post

"People on the military’s suspect lists are arrested, even when they do not have criminal records, and house visits to collect DNA samples have become the norm," she added.

She also expressed concerns about torture during military detention.

"Once the suspects are under military detention, it is hard to get any evidence of torture that could lead to [the] punishment of perpetrators."

Rights organisations have documented 28 cases of torture during military detention, including 15 in 2015.

Last year, Thai courts requested authorities financially compensate victims in three cases of such torture, but no officials were criminally charged.

The southern insurgency is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between Malay Muslims living in the four provinces and the Thai central state, where Buddhism is considered the de-facto national religion.

Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Islamic schools, but the insurgency faded in the 1990s.

In 2004, a rejuvenated armed movement – composed of numerous local cells of fighters loosely grouped around an organisation called the National Revolutionary Front, or BRN – emerged.

Since then, the conflict has killed over 6,500 people and injured more than 11,000, making it one of the deadliest low-intensity conflicts on the planet.