III. “Disappearances” in the Southern Border Provinces

Human Rights Watch interviewed eyewitnesses as well as families of 20 ethnic Malay Muslims who remain among the “disappeared”; in one further case we interviewed the wife of a “disappeared” man whose body had been found.  Although cases are effectively “closed” as “disappearances” when the bodies of victims are discovered, Thai authorities still have a duty to investigate the deaths.48  

Some of these 21 men were reportedly suspected by the authorities of being involved in or having information about specific militant attacks. In some cases, witnesses also saw the “disappeared” persons in the custody of armed men who could be identified as members of the security forces. The cases are presented below in chronological order.  Several occurred before the January 2004 raid on the weapons depots and related attacks in Narathiwat (see above).

Wae-harong Rohing and Ya Jae-doloh, Yala

Wae-harong Rohing, a 38-year-old farmer, and Ya Jae-doloh, a 45-year-old farmer, “disappeared” on March 27, 2002, after they went to see a police officer in Yala. They left their village in Yaha district together on a motorcycle just before dark, but never came back. About a month before their disappearances, insurgents attacked a police unit in Bannang Sta district, and Human Rights Watch has learned that the police had suspected Ya of having some connection to that attack. It is unclear what Wae-harong may have been suspected of, if anything.

Wae-harong’s wife, Mae-na, told Human Rights Watch that shortly before her husband’s disappearance he had received a phone call from a local police officer he knew, known as Do-loh, ordering him to come to Muang district police station in Yala.  “My husband knew that policeman, Do-loh, for years. He told me Do-loh wanted to see him to talk about a militant attack in Bannang Sta district,” she said.

According to Mae-na, Wae-harong left home without any concern that his life could be in danger. He thought that a visit to the police station could mean a chance to make some money in exchange for information. “My husband thought Do-loh wanted him to report about the situation in our village. Sometimes he received money from Do-loh when he gave information to the police. He did not earn much. For poor people like us, a small amount of money means a lot.” 49

Ya’s wife, Aminoh, told Human Rights Watch that Ya received a phone call from Do-loh telling him to go to Muang district police station in Yala: 

That policeman, Do-loh, told my husband and Wae-harong to go to see him in Yala. My husband did not see anything strange. Do-loh used to visit us and other villagers very often to collect information. People here trusted Do-loh. Sometimes they received money from Do-loh when they gave information to him. That day, it was on March 27, 2002, my husband and Wae-harong both received phone calls from Do-loh. My husband told me Do-loh wanted to talk to him about the shooting of policemen in Bannang Sta district. He told me he would come back soon. It was almost dark when my husband went out with Wae-harong on a motorcycle, and they went missing. I did not know what happened to them. They did not have an accident. They were not shot by the militants. They vanished. 50

Mae-na asked the village chief to file a missing person report with the police. Around two months later she was contacted by Yala police to pick up Wae-harong’s motorcycle. They told her that it had been found in Pattalung, a province outside the southern border region.  “I do not know how his motorcycle turned up there. Pattalung is very far away from our village. The police said they did not know what happened to my husband, or whether he was still alive,” she told Human Rights Watch.51

Aminoh filed missing person reports with the police and district officials, which she said had not led to progress in finding out Ya’s whereabouts.

Every time I went to Yala town, I always asked policemen there if they had heard any information about my husband. But there was nothing, no news. They only found the motorcycle in a rubber plantation in Pattalung. How could the motorcycle get there? My husband and his friend went to Yala, not Pattalung. I do not understand. 

Many policemen in Yala said my husband was involved in the shooting of policemen in Bannang Sta district. If that were true, they could come to arrest my husband. They should not take him away like that.52

About two months after Wae-harong’s disappearance, Mae-Na said she was visited by Do-loh.  “Do-loh and other policemen from Yala came to our house. They said they did not take my husband away. They said they did not know who did it,” Wae-harong’s wife said. “That was the last time I saw Do-loh. I do not know his real name.” 53

Wae-harong’s family is now struggling to make a living, and they fear the escalating violence in their village. Mae-na said,

There have been shootings and explosions in my village. I am afraid of the militants—every villager feels the same when we go to work in the rubber plantations. But we cannot escape from this situation. I have four children to look after. Now three of them have to drop out of the school, and my eldest son will soon have to serve in the army. I hope that my husband is still alive, and that he will come back home.54

Aminoh told Human Rights Watch that her family has been devastated: “My son dropped out of school, not because we could not afford it, but he missed his father very much. He could not concentrate on anything, and only wanted his father to come home. I miss my husband very much too.” 55

Sagariya Ka-je and Ya [family name unknown], near Yala       

Sagariya Ka-je, a 51-year-old former government employee, “disappeared” on June 29, 2002, three weeks after Yala police searched  his house in Yala’s Krong Pinang district. Sagariya’s wife, Pi-a, told Human Rights Watch that he went out on a motorcycle with a friend, Ya, to buy medicine. Neither of them came back.

I did not know what happened to Sagariya. He told me that Yala police came to search our house on June 7, 2002, but did not tell me what the police were looking for or if they suspected anyone in the house. The night he went missing [on June 29], he told me he would go out to buy medicine with his friend called Ya. I did not know details of Ya, only knew that he came from Yaha district. I did not know what he did for a living. Ya came to see my husband many times. He looked like a good man. That night Ya came with his motorcycle to pick up my husband from here. I did not know exactly what happened to both of them.

Pi-a told Human Rights Watch that neighbors told her what happened:

My neighbors told me they saw my husband and Ya being stopped by a group of men in a pickup truck. They were stopped and then pushed inside the pickup truck. Ya’s motorcycle was left there on the roadside on the highway to Yala town. My neighbors told me to get the motorcycle. I did not know Ya’s family. So, I did not know how to contact them to return the motorcycle. I am still keeping it.56

The use of double-cab pickup trucks in arrests and “disappearances” is a signature of government security forces. Pi-a filed a missing person report with the Muang district police station in Yala and with Krong Pinang district officials.

Two years after Sagariya went missing I received a phone call asking me to come to the police station again. But instead of telling me what happened to my husband or that they found him, the policemen asked me whether my husband had ever contacted me. When I told them I had never received any contact from my husband, they told me to go home. That was it.

Baruham Ma-ela and Abdulmaman Abdullakim, Narathiwat

A local politician told Human Rights Watch that Baruham Ma-ela, a 46-year-old worker in a local market, was “disappeared” because he was suspected of shooting a senior army officer in Narathiwat on March 10, 2003. “Police believed Baruham shot ‘Se Deng’ [the alias of Col. Sutham Sirikanon]. But they did not have evidence to arrest him,” said Abdulrohim Abdullakim, a member of Narathiwat provincial council, whose brother also “disappeared” in the same incident.57

Baruham’s father, Ma-ila, told Human Rights Watch that he had received the same information. He believed it was the reason for his son’s disappearance:

Many people in our village said Baruham shot an Army officer. I do not know. I never saw him using guns. If police thought Baruham was involved in that shooting, they should have arrested him. They could give him the death sentence according to the law. I would not protest if police showed me evidence.

According to his father, Baruham went to visit his uncle in Su Ngai Golok district on April 30, 2003. He traveled with his friend, Abdulmaman Abdullakim, a 48-year-old businessman and Abdulrohim Abdullakim’s brother, for his safety. “They were close friends. Abdulmaman knew many people, including policemen in Narathiwat. I thought my son was lucky to have a friend like Abdulmaman, who could get him out of trouble.”

Baruham’s father told Human Rights Watch that there were witnesses who saw his son being taken away:

That day, people at the market saw Abdulmaman and my son riding on a motorcycle returning from Su Ngai Golok district together. It was Abdulmaman’s motorcycle. Those people said they saw two pickup trucks block the road and stop my son and Abdulmaman. Both of them, as well as the motorcycle, were then loaded onto the back of those pickup trucks. Nobody dared to intervene. Those people were very scared that they, too, would be taken away. They also told me it was useless to file a report with the police because my son was taken by the police. I miss my son very much. I cried and prayed to have him back, even his bones would be better than nothing. His mother could not eat. She could not sleep.58

Abdulrohim Abdullakim told Human Rights Watch that he believes his brother Abdulmaman was taken away because he was with Baruham Ma-ela, the intended target for abduction, and would otherwise have been in a position to bear witness:

Police did not want to take my brother. They wanted Baruham. They thought Baruham shot Se Deng. It was my brother’s bad luck that he took Baruham on his motorcycle to Su Ngai Golok district. When they were stopped outside Su Ngai Golok district, near the highway intersection, their fate was sealed. When my brother saw that it was the police who took Baruham on the motorcycle, they could not let my brother go. Police knew that my brother would not remain silent, and they also knew that my family had many contacts among Muslim politicians in Narathiwat and at the national level.

Abdulrohim told Human Rights Watch that he has information about those responsible for his brother’s “disappearance.” But he did not believe that the authorities would deliver justice to his family:

Our family offers support to politicians from the Thai Rak Thai party [of then-Prime Minister Thaksin]. They visited our family during their election campaigns. Senior members of the Wadah faction [prominent Muslim politicians from Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat affiliated with the Thai Rak Thai party] all know me very well. But that does not make any difference when we talk about the police investigation into Abdulmaman’s disappearance. The Narathiwat police chief asked me if I would like to file a formal complaint that my brother went missing. I told him it would not matter. I knew wholeheartedly that the police would never go after their kind. Senior police officers from kong prab [CSD police] and pak khao [Ninth Region Police] always come to visit me. They often asked me to verify their intelligence information. They also told me before they would kill suspects—drug dealers, mafia and militants. These policemen are very influential, like [name withheld] and kong prab special teams. They are responsible for most cases of aum kha [‘disappearances’ and extrajudicial killings] in the south. They also killed Somchai Neelapaijit. They have been promoted under Prime Minister Thaksin and Gen. Kovit [current National Police Chief]. After Abdulmaman was disappeared, I had an opportunity to meet Aripen [former Narathiwat parliamentarian from Wadah faction] who then served as secretary of the interior minister, Wan Muhammad Nur [former Yala parliamentarian, leader of Wahda faction]. I told Aripen that pak kao police took my brother away. Aripen told me there was nothing he could do.59  

Budiman Woe-ni and Ibrohim Gayo, Yala

Budiman Woe-ni, age 27, and Ibrohim Gayo, age 30, were last seen in police custody in Yala’s Bannang Sta district on January 8, 2004.

According to his father, Doma, Budiman was at home when his friend known as “Imron” came to tell him to go to a tea shop in the village. Budiman went out around 6 p.m. but never returned.  His father said,

He went with his friend, Imron. I know that Imron is an army informant from Bo Thong district. He used many names, but he always called himself Imron when he came to my house. Imron and my son were close friends. That day, my son told me he was going to drink tea and play checkers with Imron.

Local politicians and policemen later told Budiman’s father that his son might be involved with the militants.  His father explained,

I tried to find out where Imron lived so that I could ask him what had happened to my son. Police and soldiers were getting less friendly whenever I asked about Budiman. Some of them even told me Budiman might be involved with the militants. How could that be true? I told them it was impossible for that to happen without my knowledge. I felt frustrated that people I used to know are turning their backs on me. They have not given any help. Some villagers started to speak badly about my son.

Budiman’s father told Human Rights Watch that people saw his son in police custody:

The wife of Ibrohim Gayo, Budiman’s friend who also went missing, said she saw Budiman in the back of a police pickup truck when policemen came to take Ibrohim from her house. Imron came with those policemen, too. That was what Ibrohim’s wife told me.60

Ibrohim Gayo’s wife confirmed this account to Human Rights Watch:

My husband was asleep when we heard a man shouting outside the house. That was around 2 a.m. He was calling my husband’s name, telling him to come out to get his money back from Budiman. He was calling, ‘Heng [Ibrohim’s nickname], come out, come out. I am with Budiman. We have money to give back to you.’ When my husband heard that, he went outside wearing only his sarong. I was awake too, as well as my daughter. When I looked outside, I saw my husband talking to policemen. There were many of them, all armed with weapons. There were two pickup trucks. Budiman was in the back of one of those trucks, his hands tied behind his back. Then I saw my husband being handcuffed and put on that pickup truck, too.

Ibrohim’s wife told Human Rights Watch that she was worried about his safety:

I had heard many stories that people were taken from their home in the same way. None of them ever came back.  I shouted to those policemen, asking them what they were doing to my husband. One of them told me, ‘We are taking Ibrohim with us. We need to question him. It should not be long. We will send him back to you later.’ But they did not tell me what they wanted to know from my husband. My husband was gone, ‘disappeared.’

Ibrohim’s wife was asking for financial support from the government. “My house is now crumbling to pieces. The roof is leaking,” she said. “I do not earn much, barely enough to feed my children. I do not have money to repair the house. I do not know what to do when the rainy season starts.”61

Budiman’s father told Human Rights Watch that he reported the case to the police but they have offered him no information as to what happened to Budiman or his whereabouts:

I reported a missing person case to Bannang Sta district police station. But there has been no progress. The AorBorTor [sub-district council] official, who was a teacher in a nearby government school, told me that he heard two men were taken away from our village in a police pickup truck that night, the night Budiman went missing. This information has not been followed up by the police.

Budiman’s father expressed his despair:

Now I do not know where to look for my son. Teachers from a nearby school recently told me they found two bodies buried in a shallow grave near the road to Narathiwat. They said they would show me pictures. I am still waiting to see those pictures. I and my wife have made up our mind that Budiman must be dead already. We just want his remains back so that we can give him a proper funeral, so that Budiman can go to heaven.62

Sata Labo, Narathiwat

Sata Labo, age 34, had previously served in the army. His sister Nuriya told Human Rights Watch that his house had been searched on January 8, 2004, by police looking for weapons stolen from Narathiwat army base on January 4. Nuriya said,

After the militant attack at the Narathiwat army camp, many policemen and soldiers came here. One day before my brother disappeared, policemen came to our house. They showed a search warrant. They said they were looking for the stolen guns. But they did not find anything. Then they told my brother to go to Narathiwat police station. They did not arrest him. They had no arrest warrant. They said they wanted some information from him. They gave him some documents, and asked him to sign them. I did not see clearly what those documents were. They took his car, a red Honda Civic, and his motorcycle back with them too. My brother went to see them in Narathiwat town and collect his car and motorcycle on the same afternoon.

Nuriya recalled that the next day, January 9, Sata went to renew his driver’s license in Narathiwat. That was the last time she saw him:

It was between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. He took his car with him. Around noon, I received a phone call from my brother. He told me that he was stopped by policemen. Those policemen searched his car and told him to go to the Narathiwat police station. That was the last time I heard from him. Sata never came back home.63

Malati Mae-sae, Narathiwat (“disappearance” and killing)

Malati Mae-sae, age 35, “disappeared” on January 13, 2004. His wife Sima witnessed a group of armed men she believes were police physically abusing and questioning him about the weapons stolen from Narathiwat on January 4, before taking him away with them.  Sima told Human Rights Watch,

Malati used to work at the Narathiwat army camp, the same unit which was attacked by the militants on January 4, 2004. He had been conscripted to work there. After that he became a member of the AorBorTor [sub-district council]. But he did not know anything about the militant attack. After January 4, there were plainclothes policemen coming to our village. They came many times, looking for information about the stolen weapons.

She explained what happened that night:

On January 13, 2004, just before midnight, I heard a man calling Malati’s name from in front of my house. Suddenly, there was a group of men in black clothes breaking in. There were around 10 of them, armed with handguns and rifles. All of them wore woolen masks, which fully covered their heads. They tied me up and blindfolded me, and told my 12-year-old daughter to close her eyes. I heard them ask my husband, ‘Where do you keep the money that you got from selling the guns? Tell us if you do not want your wife and children to get hurt. If you do not speak up, we will take everyone.’ My husband told them he did not know what they were talking about. He said he did not know anything. Then I heard them start to slap and kick my husband. I was crying. My daughter was crying.

I remembered that those men talked to my husband, to me and to my daughter in Malayu language, but communicated to each other in Thai language.  After that, I heard the men leave the house, taking my husband with them. They kept kicking and slapping him as they were leaving. When they left our house, I struggled to free myself. Then I ran outside and saw the tail lights of pickup trucks leaving the village.

Malati’s wife said his dead body was found four days later in a nearby village.  His body had many bruises. There was a rope mark around the neck. His feet and thighs were badly burned.64

Ibrohim Sae, Narathiwat

Ibrohim Sae, a 41-year-old tadika teacher, “disappeared” in the aftermath of the militant attack on the Narathiwat army camp. His wife Nurida witnessed him being questioned about the stolen weapons by a group of armed men who broke in to their house and took him away. Nurida told Human Rights Watch,

My husband was a good man. He taught children at a tadika not far from here. He also worked in a rubber plantation. He did not have anything to do with the militants. I did not understand when those men came to our house and questioned him about the stolen weapons, before they took him away.

That night [she could not remember the exact date], around midnight, my husband and I were sleeping. Then we heard someone banging loudly on the door. They were calling, ‘Heng, [Ibrohim’s nickname] wake up! Wake up!’ My husband turned on the light and went to open the door to see who was calling him. He was worried that they would break into the house. Suddenly, a group of men pushed him and went inside the house. They had woolen masks. I could not see their faces. But I saw that they had guns. There were around 20 of them. They forced my husband to stay down on the floor with his face down. I saw one of those men press a gun at Ibrohim’s head, while asking, ‘Are you Heng?’ That man used Malayu language. But his accent was not what was used by villagers here. The rest of them went around the house searching for something. They were talking to each other in Thai language, using Pasa Klang [Bangkok dialect].

Ibrohim and Nurida begged for Ibrohim to be freed. According to Nurida

I told those men that my family had no valuable belongings. But they did not listen. They tied my husband’s hands behind his back. I begged them, ‘Please do not hurt him.’ They then turned to me and said, ‘We are going to take him to Bangkok. Do you want to come too?’ They took my husband outside and drove away. I saw that there were two pickup trucks, one was red and another was white, but I did not see plate numbers.

The next day Nurida reported the abduction to the police. She also submitted a complaint to Narathiwat senator Fakrudin Botor. She has still not received any information about what happened to Ibrohim.65

Ibrohim’s neighbors told Human Rights Watch, on the condition of anonymity, that they saw policemen in uniform and plainclothes coming to their village many times before Ibrohim was taken away. They said those policemen were looking for stolen guns, but they did not know whether someone mentioned Ibrohim’s name to them. Although they saw what happened to Ibrohim that night, they did not dare to help because they were afraid that they would be taken away, too. 66

Musta-sidin Ma-ming and Wae-eso Maseng, Narathiwat

Musta-sidin Ma-ming, a 27-year-old mobile phone shop owner, “disappeared” on February 11, 2004.  Musta-sidin’s wife Tuan-rohana told Human Rights Watch that witnesses told her that a group of men wearing black shirts came to his shop in broad daylight and took Musta-sidin away together with his assistant.  She said,

I was visiting my mother in Pattani on that day. But there were many people who saw what happened to Musta-sidin. They told me that a group of men wearing black shirts came to his shop around 4 p.m. Those men arrived in a red Nissan pickup truck. They put Musta-sidin and his assistant, Wae-eso Maseng, in that pickup truck and drove away.

Witnesses told Musta-sidin’s wife that the pickup truck that took her husband away had no license plate. Tuan-rohana thought this was important:

How could a car be driven in the downtown market, passing many police and military checkpoints, without a license plate? Why were they not arrested? It would have been impossible, unless that Nissan truck belonged to the authorities. Also many people saw when my husband was taken away. Those witnesses could give me details about the time and the vehicle used by those men, but none of them wanted to say anything more than that. One of them said, ‘Please understand, do not blame me, I would be in trouble too if I say anything.’67

Wae-eso’s brother Awae told Human Rights Watch that he did not understand why his brother was taken away:

Wae-eso was working with his boss, Musta-sidin Ma-ming, in a mobile phone shop in Tanyongmas market. They sold and repaired mobile phones. On February 11, 2004, both of them were taken away from the shop. I did not know whether both of them were involved in illegal activity. They did not do anything suspicious. I heard that police were looking for people who made mobile phone detonators. But my brother would have no knowledge to do that. He did not go to school or have formal education. He taught himself and also learned from his boss. I talked to Wae-eso’s wife. She said many people in the market saw Wae-eso being taken away by a group of men wearing black shirts. Those men were armed. That was all she knew.68

The next day Tuan-rohana filed a missing person report at Ra Ngae district police station in Narathiwat. Police officers came to Musta-sidin’s shop once, but did not say anything about his “disappearance.”  Tuan-rohana recalled,

Those policemen took Musta-sidin’s desktop computer away. A few days later they returned it back to the shop, saying there was nothing stored in the hard drive except software to adjust and repair mobile telephones. I do not think that had anything to do with the investigation of Musta-sidin’s ‘disappearance,’ not what was stored inside his computer. I was very upset. They seemed to be more interested in who he was and what he was doing. 69

Narathiwat senator Fakrudin Botor told Human Rights Watch that Musta-sidin’s “disappearance” took place when the security forces were trying to substantiate reports that mobile telephone networks around the Narathiwat Rajanakarin Camp had been deactivated before the militant raid on January 4, 2004. The investigation focused on local Muslims who owned or worked as technicians in mobile telephone shops in Narathiwat.  He said that the authorities were also worried that mobile telephones were increasingly being used to trigger explosive devices used in attacks on government officials and civilians.70

Tuan-rohana had an opportunity to meet Prime Minister Thaksin in May 2004. She asked him to help find out what happened to her husband:

I hired a lawyer to write a petition to Prime Minister Thaksin when I knew of his visit to Tanyongmas in May 2004. When the prime minister received my petition, he told me three times that ‘I am going to look into the case.’ I also received similar assurances from officials from the Ministry of Justice. But those words have led to nothing. I came home empty-handed every time I went to the police station. There was no sign of progress.71

Wae-eso’s brother said the police never came to talk to him after he took Wae-eso’s wife to file a missing person report. He spent most of his family’s savings searching for his brother:

I went to many places to find him. I used to work in a local defense unit. Many policemen and soldiers knew me. But they could not help us. I went to army camps in Yala and Hat Yai. I spent a lot of money, more than 10,000 baht [U.S.$278] traveling back and forth. But there was nothing. I am running out of money now.  I went to see a tok guru [Islamic teacher] and asked him to perform a ritual to find out what happened to Wae-eso. The tok guru told me that Wae-eso was dead. That was about four months after he went missing. I had similar thoughts because Wae-eso would have come home if he were still alive. He loved his wife and children. I could not believe that he would abandon them for any reason. We arranged funeral ceremonies for Wae-eso although we did not have his body. 72

Muhammad-saimi Guna, Yala

Muhammad-saimi Guna, a 22-year-old university student, “disappeared” in Yala around the same time the security forces searched his parents’ house in Pattani’s Yarang district. His father was taken to Yala police headquarters the day he “disappeared” and was questioned about the bombing of the Yala power station by alleged militants on July 14, 2005.  Muhammad’s father, Da-oh, told Human Rights Watch what happened:

Muhammad disappeared on July 16. That day many security forces personnel came to my house—police, soldiers, and defense volunteers. The kamnan [sub-district chief] brought them to my house. He said the officials received a tip-off that the militants were hiding here, and there were illegal items in my house. They did not show me any search or arrest warrants. They looked everywhere, but could not find who or what they wanted to find. At that point, I became worried about Muhammad, who was studying in Yala. I had heard stories that many young men were arrested and disappeared when the authorities were looking for suspects in militant attacks. If they came to search my house, they might want to arrest my son. I was very worried about Muhammad’s safety because my wife and I tried to call his mobile phone earlier that day, but it was switched off.

While his house was searched by the security forces, Muhammad’s father tried to find out whether his son was the target of the search. Muhammad’s father told Human Rights Watch,

I asked one of the policemen whether Muhammad was going to be arrested or not. He told me my son had not been arrested. But when they left my house, they took all documents, books, education records, and photos of Muhammad with them, too.  Then they took me to the police headquarters in Yala. They did not tell me why I was taken there. When I arrived there, they put me in an interrogation room and questioned me about a militant attack at the power station in Yala. All I could say was that I knew about the incident from the news. I told those policemen that no one in my family had anything to do with it, particularly Muhammad. I told them my son would never take part in any violence. He was a student, a good student.

On the day he went missing, I and my wife were actually preparing to go to visit him in Yala. We wanted to bring him home with us because there were many militant attacks in Yala. We wanted our son to be safe. He was our youngest son. We wanted to keep him near us. That was why we did not allow him to go to Bangkok. We sent him to study at Yala Ratchabhat [teachers college] after he graduated from Thmama Wittaya School. He was a good student, both in modern education and religious education. His knowledge of the Koran and Islam was widely acknowledged in the village. He always came home from Yala every Friday to read sermons at Bue Nang Gue Bong Mosque, not far from our house. That day, 16 July, was the only Friday that he did not come home, and we have never seen him or heard anything from him since.

Muhammad’s family has been searching in vain to find out what happened to him and to determine his whereabouts.  His father said,

We kept trying to contact him, asking all his friends. But nobody knew where he was. The police could not give us any information. They said they did not know what happened to Muhammad. Now we do not have anything about him here, not one photo. The police took everything away. His mother cried many times. She could not eat, could not sleep. She wanted to have Muhammad’s photos back from the police at least, while we still do not know his whereabouts.

After Muhhamad’s family filed a complaint with members of the National Reconciliation Commission about his “disappearance” and the lack of action by local police, government officials took Muhhamad’s mother to CS Pattani Hotel to collect samples of her saliva. They told her the samples would be kept so that, when any unidentified bodies were found, they could verify whether it was Muhammad’s body. “At that we were hopeful. But now, we are back in the dark again. No one ever told us the progress of investigation or whether there were any investigations at all,” Muhammad’s father said.73

Wae-sainung Wae-na-wae, Gu-amad Amiden, Abdulloh Salam, and Muhammad Seren, Pattani

Wae-sainung Wae-na-wae, age 22, Gu-amad Amiden, age 21, Abdulloh Salam, age 21, and Muhammad Seren, age 21, all “disappeared” in Pattani on the same day. Available evidence indicates that the security forces abducted the four longtime friends because one of them, Gu-amad Amiden, had recently been acquitted of murder charges.  They have never been seen again. 

In October 2004 Gu-amad Amiden had been arrested and charged in the shooting death of a university student in Pattani. According to Gu-amad’s mother, the police told her soon after his arrest that the university student was the son of a senior police official.  Gu-amad remained in custody until October 19, 2005, when the Pattani court acquitted him due to insufficient evidence. He returned home. 

Gu-amad’s mother told Human Rights Watch,

During the trial, Gu-amad told the judge that he would be beaten to death if he did not confess. He was threatened when policemen took him from the cell to meet with me and reporters. He was put on trial together with two other friends. The judge acquitted him and his two friends, saying there was not enough evidence to prove that he was guilty as accused by the police.

After his release, Gu-amad was concerned about his safety. His mother said that “[h]e became very careful after that [his acquittal]. He did not go out too often.” 74

Muhammad Seren’s brother-in-law told Human Rights Watch that after Muhammad came back from Malaysia for the Muslim holiday of Hari Raya, Gu-amad came to their house two or three times to invite him to go out:

At first, I and my wife, Muhammad’s elder sister, did not tell him [that Gu-amad had come to their house]. We did not want him to go out. It was dangerous. Many people were shot in Pattani. There were also many police and soldiers, and they had set up checkpoints everywhere. Going out with someone like Gu-amad, who was arrested before and might still be wanted by the police, would be very dangerous. 75

Abdulloh Salam’s mother, Roshamoh, told Human Rights Watch,

I knew that one of his friends in the group, Gu-amad, was arrested in 2004. Everyone in the village knew that. After Gu-amad was freed, not long before my son went missing, all young men were careful not to go out alone. They were worried that they might be arrested. 

Abdulloh told me to prepare dinner for him, and that he would not be out for too long. He went out in sarong. Then around 9 p.m., he came back home to get his ID card. He said he did not want to be stopped at checkpoints without an ID card.76

It is not clear exactly when and where the four young men were abducted, but a large number of security force members were seen at the tea shop where they were heading.  According to Gu-amad’s mother,

I was busy preparing food for Hari Raya, and did not see when Gu-amad left the house. His elder brother followed him out. He wanted to warn Gu-amad to be careful. But Gu-amd was already inside Wae-sainung’s car. He was not sure whether Gu-amad heard what he was trying to say. He also tried to call Gu-amad about 30 minutes later. But he found that Gu-amad’s mobile phone was switched off. That was after 9 p.m. He thought that was very strange. So he went out on his motorcycle to the tea shop. Gu-amad and his friends were not there. There were many soldiers inside and around the shop.77  

Muhammad’s brother-in-law said that his motorcycle was found parked not far from their house.  He tried to call Muhammad’s mobile phone the next day, but found that it was switched off.  “Muhammad’s mother told me to keep trying to call his number everyday, hoping that someone would answer and tell me about him,” he said.78

According to Wae-sainung’s brother:

My family only knew the next afternoon that Wae-sainung was missing. We first thought he had stayed at his friend’s house. But after parents of his friends came here asking if we had seen their sons, we then realized that something was wrong. We all tried to call the mobile phones of Wae-sainung and his friends. Their mobile phones were switched off. We looked around in many places where we thought they would go, but we could not find any of them or know what happened to them. One thing I know for sure is that my brother did not run away. He had his brand new clothes folded in his room. Those clothes were for the Hari Raya celebration. He would not miss it.79

Gu-amad’s mother believed her son had been taken away by the authorities. She went to search for him at local police and army units, as well as at the Pattani Court.

I went to many police stations and army camps. An army informant told my friends that he heard that four young men from Pakaharang district were taken to an interrogation center in Pattani town. I went there, but soldiers said they had never heard of that story. Some of them joked that my son went to Aceh [in Indonesia]. Some of them said he went to Su Ngai Golok district or to Phuket.

When I went to file a missing person report at Maung district police station in Pattani, policemen there told me that my son was taken by the militants. That was absurd. The militants might kill people, but they never abducted anyone. There were also many army and police patrol units in my village on the night that Gu-amad and his friends went missing – it would have been impossible for the militants to do anything.

Gu-amad’s mother told Human Rights Watch that police officers came to her house three or four days after his “disappearance.” But they did not come to investigate the case.  “Those policemen were trying to plant bullets and casings inside our house. My husband saw that. He shouted to them, ’Hey … What are you doing?’ Those policemen said they had dropped their bullets and then they left the house,” she said.80

Abdulloh’s  mother described how she felt when she learned her son was missing:

When I learned that they [the other families] were looking for their sons too, I passed out. I was shocked. It was impossible for all of them to disappear at the same time. My heart was broken. I could not prepare anything for Hari Raya. All four families filed missing person reports with the police and kamnan [sub-district chief]. I was crying so much that the police could not type what I was trying to tell him. Until now, there has been no news about Abdulloh and his friends. I did not feel comfortable when I saw policemen coming into the village.

I want to know what happened to my son. I want him to come home. He was a good man. He saved money to support his younger brother and to look after me.… I was so proud of him. He told me he would make the ground floor comfortable for me to move around when I became old. But he was taken away. I do not know how my family will survive without Abdulloh. Nobody came to help us. But I do not want any compensation. I just wanted my son back, even if he came back dead. I want to see him again. I pray every night.81

The “disappearances” of Muhammad and his three friends have terrified the entire community. As Muhammad’s brother-in-law said,

After Muhammad and his friends were ‘disappeared,’ other young people in this village were very scared. There were rumors that our village was listed as a red zone and many people were suspected by police as members of the militants. When we saw police and army units coming to our village, we often thought that they were coming to take our children away. Sometimes, when strangers were seen in the village, we thought they were secret agents from the police or the army. Young people hardly left the village alone. When they saw checkpoints, they were worried that they could be stopped and taken away. Even when I took my motorcycle to Pattani town, I was very nervous myself.82

Ahama Wae-doloh, Yala

Ahama Wae-doloh, a 22-year-old tadika teacher from a village in Mu 3, Tambon Klong Maning, Muang district, Pattani, “disappeared” on November 9, 2005. According to his mother, Wae-leyoh, soldiers had searched his village several times because they suspected that militants were hiding there.  She said,

I am so scared. During the past two years soldiers have turned our village into a terrible place. They believed militants have been hiding here. They came to set up their camp in our village. They searched many houses, but did not come to our house though. My son thought having an army camp would not make anything better. The violence did not stop. He and other villagers sometimes talked together about that—that they did not want to see soldiers here.  Around June or July last year, a government school and an AorBorTor office in Klong Maning were attacked by arsonists. That night, army patrols and checkpoints were everywhere. But still they could not arrest anyone. Some villagers, who were members of ChorRorBor [village defense team], said soldiers and the police were very frustrated because they believed the militants already controlled our village or lived here among us. How could they have thought that? I am afraid of the militants. I think many villagers have the same feeling. Giving cover or any assistance to the militants will only get us into trouble with the officials—those from the district office, soldiers, and police. Those ChorRorBor also said many young people from our village were put on the blacklist. But they did not spell out the names. They did not say if my son was on the blacklist. That was around October 2005.

Wae-leyoh told Human Rights Watch that on November 9, 2005, Ahama took his nephew to have an x-ray examination at Yala Hospital. They went together in an ambulance from Pattani Hospital. Ahama told his nephew that he would wait there to bring the results back to Pattani. But he never came back. Wae-leyoh said,

Ahama was a kind man. He wanted his nephew to go back to Pattani with an ambulance and he would stay behind to wait for the results. He also asked his nephew to tell me to prepare food for him to eat when he got back home. But he did not come back. Nobody knew what happened. That afternoon, Pattani Hospital called Yala Hospital to enquire about the x-ray results. Staff at Yala Hosptal said Ahama did not arrive. When Ahama’s nephew found out about that, he told my cousin who lived just a few meters from our house. My cousin came to tell me. The next day, he took me to report the case to the police. My cousin, my daughters, and Ahama’s friends all tried to call Ahama’s mobile phone. But the phone was switched off.  The police did not ask me anything, but they told me they did not do it. They said that they did not take Ahama away. But they did not know who did it. Until today they still have not told me what happened to Ahama.83

Wae-halem Kuwae-kama, Narathiwat

Wae-halem Kuwae-kama, a 40-year-old builder and a former deputy village chief, went missing on the evening of May 29, 2006, in his village in Joh Airong district, Narathiwat. His uncle, Kordae, told Human Rights Watch that Wae-halem was long suspected by soldiers of playing an important role in the local network of separatist insurgents.

Kordae said Wae-helem had faced threats and pressures from a local army unit before his “disappearance”:

Those soldiers accused Wae-halem of being active in expanding the insurgent network around Tambon Bukit. I thought that was because Wae-halem was respected by everyone. The soldiers did not understand that he was a good deputy village chief. He always looked after everyone. He had his own construction business. He hired many people from our village, particularly unemployed teenagers, to work with him. He also allowed them to take fruits from his orchard to sell in the market to earn extra money. This village depended very much on him. But soldiers saw Wae-halem differently. The month before he disappeared, soldiers from the unit stationed near Bukit Pracha Upatham School told him that he would be ‘taken down,’ that is, shot dead, one day. They said Wae-halem’s name was on the blacklist.

Kordae told Human Rights Watch that about one month before his “disappearance,” soldiers from a local army unit raided the village and arrested Wae-halem together with other five villagers:

Wae-halem was taken to the army interrogation center in Bo Thong district in Pattani. He was kept there for 12 days, before the soldiers sent him back home without any charge. But the soldiers remained suspicious of Wae-halem and many people here. The soldiers said they had very specific information about us. Some people were said to be bomb makers, some were commandos, and some were accused of facilitating others to receive military training in Malaysia. They also accused us of providing hiding places for the insurgents, and that our orchards and rubber plantations were weapon depots. More than 100 soldiers came to search our village inside out. They found nothing.

Wae-halem’s village was put under surveillance. Villagers were often stopped at security checkpoints on their way in and out of the village. His uncle recalled that Wae-halem was stopped at a checkpoint outside his village on the day he went missing:

Wae-halem complained that he had often been stopped at army checkpoints on his way in and out of his village. That day, May 29, he left home around 7:30 a.m. on his motorcycle. He arrived at the construction site in Bukit Tamong village and told his friend that he was stopped at an army checkpoint in Kapong Baru village. Wae-halem said soldiers asked him about his money and how much he had earned. He told those soldiers that he just bought new tools for his orchard, and there was nothing wrong with that. Wae-halem finished his work and returned from Bukit Tamong village. Around 5 p.m., he arrived at a tea shop in this village. He rested there for a while, drinking tea and talking to other villagers. He always stopped there. It was not far from his house, less than a kilometer on a straight road. Wae-halem then left the tea shop and got on his motorcycle to come home. But he did not make it. Villagers saw that there was a pickup truck, a green Mitsubishi, parked not far from the tea shop. There were four or five men there. Those men told Wae-halem to stop. Then they took him inside their pickup truck and drove away. Since then Wae-halem has not been seen again.

After his “disappearance,” Wae-halem’s uncle rushed to all the army checkpoints and army units in the area. The soldiers said they had not arrested him and did not know what had happened to Wae-halem. Kordae represented Wae-halem’s family and filed missing person reports with the police in Joh Airong district, Narathiwat. He also reported the case to the chairman for the southern border provinces of the government-appointed Independent Commission on Justice and Civil Liberties, Ukrit Mongkolnavin, on June 5, 2006. Kordae said the commission received his complaint but had not taken any serious action to find out what had happened to Wae-halem. “Is he still alive, dead, or detained somewhere?” asked Kadae.84

Pokri Bae-apiban, Yala 

Pokri Bae-apiban, a 21-year-old villager, “disappeared” after leaving his house on the morning of October 27, 2006. Witnesses saw that he was stopped and taken away by a group of soldiers at a gas station in Bannang Sta market. His father Doe-romae told Human Rights Watch that villagers at the market told him they saw what happened:

Pokri left our house in the morning around 8 a.m. I began to worry when he did not return home by noon. I began to call his number, but the cell phone was switched off. Later that day I went to Bannang Sta market to find him. Many villagers at the market saw what happened to my son. They said soldiers in uniform, arriving in two Isuzu DMAX double-cab pickup trucks, arrested my son at the gas station. They saw that my son was searched before being forced into one of those pickup trucks. The whole thing happened in broad daylight, in front of many people. But nobody dared to do anything to save my son. They were stunned and all afraid that they would be shot or arrested if they stepped in to help my son. Those soldiers drove away with my son. His motorcycle was left there, at the gas station, with the key. The gas tank was almost empty. Pokri did not have a chance to refill it before he was arrested.

Doe-romae, told Human Rights Watch that Pokri had been suspected by a local army unit as being involved in insurgent activity:

I find it hard to believe that Pokri was suspected by soldiers. I am a village defense volunteer and always against those insurgents. My son and I have been helping police as informants for many years, providing information about insurgent activity in Ban Pawang village. Every month my son received 4,500 baht [U.S.$125] from the police. He infiltrated into their cells and spent a lot of time with them to get information about those wanted by police. But perhaps soldiers who had been assigned to our village were not aware of Pokri’s status. They accused my son of being an insurgent.

Doe-romae searched for his son without success: “Until today, I do not know his whereabouts or which unit took him away. There was no record of his arrest in any police stations and military units in Yala.”  He filed missing person reports with Bannang Sta district police station in Yala:

There were many eyewitnesses, but nobody wanted to talk to the police about what happened to Pokri. They only told me because they felt sorry for me. Police do not seem to be able to help me. I am so disappointed and frustrated. I could not understand why police who hired my son [as their informant] did not tell soldiers that we were actually on the same side with them. I believe in the law. If my son is guilty of anything, then he should be arrested properly. I will turn him in myself. I have not given up hope that my son is still alive. He may be detained somewhere. I am keeping my eyes and ears open to all leads. I traveled to Nakhon Sithamarat recently when someone told me that Pokri was kept at an army base there. But nobody there said they knew about him.

As there is no progress in the police investigation, according to Doe-romae, insurgents in Pawang village are using the “disappearance” of Pokri to rally local support to their activity:

Working with authorities in this village already put us in a difficult situation. And now the authorities are turning their back to my family. Insurgents are gaining more control by day. They call me ‘police dog’ all the time. They told other villagers that my family was betrayed and abandoned by Thai authorities. There have been many insurgent attacks in this village lately, and each time insurgents always used what happened to Pokri to incite villagers to join them and support them.85    

48 Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, E.S.C. res. 1989/65, annex, 1989 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 52, U.N. Doc. E/1989/89 (1989), principle 9.

49 Human Rights Watch interview with Mae-na, Yala, March 31, 2006.

50 Human Rights Watch interview with Aminoh, Yala, March 31, 2006.

51 Human Rights Watch interview with Mae-na, March 31, 2006.

52 Human Rights Watch interview with Aminoh, March 31, 2006.

53 Human Rights Watch interview with Mae-na, March 31, 2006.

54 Ibid.

55 Human Rights Watch interview with Aminoh, March 31, 2006.

56 Human Rights Watch interview with Pi-a, Yala, April 1, 2006.

57 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdulrohim Abdullakim, Narathiwat, March 30, 2006.

58 Human Rights Watch interview with Ma-ila, Narathiwat, March 30, 2006.

59 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdulrohim Abdullakim, March 30, 2006.

60 Human Rights Watch interview with Doma, Yala, April 2, 2006.

61 Human Rights Watch interview with Ae-so, Yala, April 2, 2006.

62 Human Rights Watch interview with Doma, April 2, 2006.

63 Human Rights Watch interview with Nuriya, Narathiwat, March 25, 2005.

64 Human Rights Watch interview with Sima, Narathiwat, March 25, 2005.

65 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurida, Narathiwat, February 18, 2005.

66 Human Rights Watch interview with neighbor (names withheld) of Ibrohim Sae, Narathiwat, February 18, 2005.

67 Human Rights Watch interview with Tuan-rohana, Narathiwat, May 26, 2005.

68 Human Rights Watch interview with Awae, Narathiwat, March 30, 2006.

69 Human Rights Watch interview with Tuan-rohana, May 26, 2005.

70 Human Rights Watch interview with Fakrudin Botor, Bangkok, March 25, 2005.

71 Human Rights Watch interview with Tuan-rohana, May 26, 2005.

72 Human Rights Watch interview with Awae, Narathiwat, March 30, 2006.

73 Human Rights Watch interview with Da-oh, Pattani, March 10, 2006.

74 Human Rights Watch interview with Wae-yo, Pattani, March 29, 2006.

75 Human Rights Watch interview with Mahammad-posi, Pattani, March 29, 2006.

76 Human Rights Watch interview with Roshamoh, Pattani, March 29, 2006.

77 Human Rights Watch interview with Wae-yo, March 29, 2006.

78 Human Rights Watch interview with Mahammad-posi, March 29, 2006.

79 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad, Pattani, March 29, 2006.

80 Human Rights Watch interview with Wae-yo, March 29, 2006.

81 Human Rights Watch interview with Roshamoh, March 29, 2006.

82 Human Rights Watch interview with Mahammad-posi, March 29, 2006.

83 Human Rights Watch interview with Wae-leyoh, Pattani, March 10, 2006.

84 Human Rights Watch interview with Kordae, Narathiwat, June 6, 2006.

85 Human Rights Watch interview with Doe-romae, Yala, November 27, 2006.