(New York) – Thai military authorities should immediately confirm the location of 17 student activists who were arbitrarily arrested on April 2, 2015, in Thailand’s southern Narathiwat province, Human Rights Watch said today. The activists should be freed unless they have been charged by a judge with a credible offense.
Soldiers conducted a warrantless search at about 5 a.m. on April 2 at four student dormitories in Muang district of Narathiwat province. They forced at least 17 activists from the network of ethnic Malay Muslim students at Princess of Narathiwat University to give DNA samples and then took them into military custody. Human Rights Watch has learned that the activists are being detained without charge in Pileng, Buket Tanyong, and Chulabhorn Camps in Narathiwat province. The military authorities have provided no explanation for the students’ detention or said when they would be released.
“Arbitrary arrests, secret detention, and unaccountable officials are a recipe for human rights abuses,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The use of martial law to detain student activists shows how out of control the Thai military authorities have become.”
The detained activists include Aseng Kilimo, Bahakim Jehmae, Tuanahamad Majeh, Muruwan Blabueteng, Asri Saroheng, Ibroheng Abdi, Sufiyan Doramae, Ismael Jehso, Abdulloh Madeng, Sagariya Samae, Usman Oyu, Saidi Doloh, Tarsimi Madaka, Rosari Yako, Ahmad Yusoh, Albari Aba, and Ridul Sulong.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised serious concerns regarding the use of arbitrary arrest and secret military detention in Thailand’s southern border provinces. Order 3/2558, issued in accordance with section 44 of the interim constitution, provides the military authorities with broad powers and legal immunity to detain people incommunicado without charge in informal places of detention, such as military camps, for seven days. It does not ensure either effective judicial oversight or prompt access to legal counsel and family members.
The risk of enforced disappearances, torture, and other ill-treatment significantly increases when detainees are held incommunicado in unofficial locations and under the control of the military, which lacks training and experience in civilian law enforcement. Those who committed crimes should be properly charged, but all should be treated according to international human rights standards and due process of law.
The cycle of human rights abuses and impunity contributes to an atmosphere in which Thai security personnel show little regard for human rights and separatist insurgents have committed numerous atrocities. Since January 2004, Thailand’s southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat have been the scene of a brutal internal armed conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives. Civilians have accounted for approximately 90 percent of those deaths. To date, not a single member of the Thai security forces has been criminally prosecuted for serious rights abuses in the south. Meanwhile, the Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani insurgents in the loose network of BRN-Coordinate (National Revolution Front-Coordinate) regularly attack both government officials and civilians.
“Violent insurgency is no excuse for the Thai military to resort to summary and abusive measures against the Malay Muslim population,” Adams said. “It’s very worrying that soldiers continue to arrest and detain anyone they want.”