Thailand's military government has introduced a new strategy that they say aims to curb the fighting in the country's deep south for more than a decade, Reuters has reported.
The country’s junta appointed police chief told Reuters that DNA samples have now been taken from more than 40,000 people. Reuters was denied entry to the DNA labs.
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but parts of the south, in particular the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, are majority Muslim.
Resistance against Buddhist annexation in the region has claimed more than 6,000 lives since 2004.
Thai’s military argues that the new practice will decrease the violence, and make arrests and prosecutions easier. However, lawyers and activists say the forced sweeps are further alienating locals in the Muslim-dominated provinces and fuelling distrust.
Zawawee Pi, a young community radio member in Pattani, told Reuters that he refused to give a DNA sample after being tested three times already.
Although he did not have any criminal record, when he refused the officer threatened him with a gun, he said.
"They said they wanted evidence in case I did something wrong in the future. Why test for a crime I have yet to commit?"
Thailand's military seized power May 22 and promised to restart a peace dialogue with rebel leaders, launched by government of Yingluck Shinawatra. But months after the junta’s announcement, there has been no changes on the ground.
The region was an independent sultanate until the 19th century and was only formally annexed by Buddhist-majority Siam (Thailand's previous name) under the terms of a 1909 Anglo-Siamese agreement.
In the 1950s, a policy of forced assimilation provoked deep tensions among Muslims, with the situation deteriorating in the 1960s when Thai leader Sarit Thanarat tried to control education in Islamic schools. This decision triggered a rebellion.