Re: Enforced Disappearances in the Southern Border Provinces
Dear Prime Minister,
Human Rights Watch welcomes your government’s signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on January 9, 2012. This is a major statement of commitment by your government and the Thai state to end the scourge of disappearances. We hope that the Thai parliament will soon ratify the Convention and, more importantly, your government will take urgent action to resolve all cases of enforced disappearance and hold accountable all those found responsible.
In March 2007 we published a 69-page report, “‘It Was Like Suddenly My Son No Longer Existed’: Enforced Disappearances in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces” (https://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2007/03/19/it-was-suddenly-my-son-no-longer-existed-0), detailing 22 cases of enforced disappearance strongly implicating the Thai security forces. None of these cases have led to criminal prosecutions of the perpetrators.
We are gravely concerned that the security forces continue to use enforced disappearance against suspected insurgents in Thailand’s southern border provinces. We recently received information from Thai human rights groups regarding the recent disappearance of Nasulan Pi in Narathiwat province. Nasulan was last seen on January 17, 2012, at a teashop near his house in Mu 5, Tambon Juab, Joh Ai Rong district, Narathiwat province when two armed men in military uniform forced him into a car and drove off. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Nasulan is the 39thperson reported disappeared person since 2002 in connection with the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the southern border provinces (please see the attached list of enforced disappearance cases known to Human Rights Watch). We believe that the actual number of enforced disappearance cases is underreported because many families of victims and witnesses keep silent due to fears of reprisal and the lack of an effective witness protection system.
Since the resurgence of violence in January 2004, successive Thai governments have publicly acknowledged that the separatist insurgency in the southern border provinces is fuelled in significant part by the lack of justice related to state-sponsored abuses and impunity. But little has been done to translate this into corrective action. Government agencies, including the police, the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center, have failed to carry out full, impartial, and effective investigations into enforced disappearance cases and bring to justice those responsible.
Apart from 100,000 baht in financial assistance provided to 16 families by the government of Gen. Surayud Chulanont in 2007, there have been no other government assistance or remedies given to the families of those disappeared in the southern border provinces. Offering money and apologies to some of the victims’ families should not be considered a substitute for serious investigations to determine the whereabouts of their fathers, husbands, or sons, or for appropriate prosecutions of those responsible for their disappearance.
The Thai government should also recognize that ongoing abuses by the security forces, and attempts to cover up the misconduct of security personnel or to protect them from criminal responsibility, have been widely used by insurgent groups in the loose network of National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-Coordinate) to justify their attacks and recruit new members. Since January 2004, over 5,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict in the southern border provinces. Civilians have accounted for approximately 90 percent of those deaths. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly condemned insurgent attacks against civilians and we will continue to do so.
For this cycle of killings and reprisals to be brought to an end, your government should take immediate action to end impunity for enforced disappearances. Specifically, we call on your government to undertake the following measures:
- Promptly ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (the “Convention”).
- Urgently adopt all necessary legislation, regulations and other measures to fully comply with Convention even before its ratification. Critically, these legislative changes should include making enforced disappearances a criminal offense. The offense should apply to anyone who commits, orders, solicits or induces the commission of, attempts to commit, is an accomplice to or participates in an enforced disappearance. It should also hold criminally responsible officials and commanders who knew or should of known of enforced disappearances committed by their subordinates and did not take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the disappearance or hold those responsible to account.
- Ensure all government officials act in accordance with the object and purpose of the Convention prior to formal ratification.
- Ensure that the police and prosecutors conduct prompt, competent, and impartial investigations into all allegations of enforced disappearances. Consistent with the Convention, ensure that persons suspected of having committed an offense of enforced disappearance are not in a position to influence the progress of an investigation by means of pressure or acts of intimidation or reprisal aimed at the complainant, witnesses, relatives of the disappeared person or their defense counsel, or at persons participating in the investigation.
- Make a public commitment to promptly and impartially investigate all known cases of enforced disappearances, including the 36 cases listed at the end of this letter. Continually provide updated public information on the status of investigations.
- Suspend and remove from the field all persons against whom credible allegations of responsibility or involvement in enforced disappearances are made until a thorough investigation is completed.
- Prosecute all officials regardless of rank found responsible for enforced disappearances and other abuses, including those ordering enforced disappearances or who knew or should have known about such abuses but took no action to prevent or prosecute them.
- Ensure that all persons detained by the police and the military are held at recognized places of detention, and are not subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Upon detention, their whereabouts should immediately be made known to family and legal counsel. They should be allowed contact with family and unhindered access to legal counsel of the detainee’s choice. When a case of enforced disappearance has been reported, the relevant police or military units should immediately make known the whereabouts or circumstances of the detainee.
- Provide prompt, fair, and adequate compensation for the victims and family members of those who have disappeared or were otherwise arbitrarily detained.
- Strengthen the independence and capacity of the Justice Ministry, prosecutors, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center to ensure more thorough and effective investigations and public reporting of allegations of enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses. The government should recognize that it is vital that each of these agencies is able to act independently and have the resources and security to perform their respective functions.
- Invite the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the United Nations Working Groups on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and on Arbitrary Detentions to Thailand to investigate and report on the situation. Recommendations of these special rapporteurs should be implemented in a timely manner.
We would be happy to discuss these concerns with you directly at your convenience. Thank you for your consideration of our views. I look forward to your response.
Enforced disappearance cases from March 2002 to January 2012 known to Human Rights Watch
- Waeharong Rohing, disappeared on March 27, 2002 in Yala province
- Ya Jehdoloh, disappeared on March 27, 2002 in Yala province
- Sakariya Kaje, disappeared on June 29, 2002 in Yala province
- Buraham Ma-eila, disappeared on April 30, 2003 in Narathiwat province
- Abdulmaman Abdullakim, disappeared on April 30, 2003 in Narathiwat province
- Budiman Woni, disappeared on January 7, 2004 in Yala province
- Aroon Mong, disappeared on January 7, 2004 in Songkhla province
- Ibrohem Gayo, disappeared on January 8, 2004 in Yala province
- Sata Labo, disappeared on January 9, 2004 in Narathiwat province
- Ibrohim Sae, disappeared on January 26, 2004 in Narathiwat province
- Wae-eiso Maseng, disappeared on February 11, 2004 in Narathiwat province
- Mustasidin Maming, disappeared on February 11, 2004 in Narathiwat province
- Somchai Neelapaijit, disappeared on March 12, 2004 in Bangkok
- Abdulloh Mama, disappeared on October 30, 2004 in Pattani province
- Abdulloh Hajisalae, disappeared on June 5, 2005 in Yala province
- Muhammad Saimi Guna, disappeared on July 16, 2005 in Yala province
- Mahama Hazmi Raya, disappeared on October 7, 2005in Songkhla province
- Wilailak Mama, disappeared on October 7, 2005in Songkhla province
- Cholasith Raya, disappeared on October 7, 2005in Songkhla province
- Muhammad Saidi Mahama, disappeared on October 7, 2005 in Songkhla province
- Abdul Wahae Baning, disappeared on October 17, 2005 in Yala province
- Waesainung Waenawae, disappeared on November 1, 2005 in Pattani province
- Gu-amad Abisen, disappeared on November 1, 2005 in Pattani province
- Abdulloh Salam, disappeared on November 1, 2005 in Pattani province
- Muhammad Senren, disappeared on November 1, 2005 in Pattani province
- Ahama Waedoloh, disappeared on November 9, 2005 in Yala province
- Waehalem Guwaegama, disappeared on May 29, 2006 in Narathiwat province
- Pokri Bae-apiban, disappeared on October 27, 2006 in Yala province
- Mayateng Maranor, disappeared on June 24, 2007 in Yala province
- Mayunit Loniya, disappeared on July 11, 2007 in Yala province
- Marudin Wawa, disappeared on August 22, 2007 in Yala province
- Wae-asis Waesu, disappeared on November 2, 2007 in Yala province
- Usman Sa, disappeared on July 14, 2008 in Yala province
- Rosaming Samamae, disappeared on March 10, 2009 in Narathiwat province
- Abdulloh Abukari, disappeared on December 11, 2010 in Narathiwat province
- Doromae Jaeleh, disappeared on March 17, 2010 in Pattani province
- Ibroheng Gahong, disappeared on April 30, 2011 in Yala province
- Dulhami Marae, disappeared on April 30, 2011 in Yala province
- Nasulan Pi, disappeared on January 17, 2012 in Narathiwat province