Rights Group Documents Brutality Of Insurgents in Southern Thailand

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By Nora Boustany
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Separatist militants in Thailand's mostly Muslim southern provinces have stepped up a decades-long, low-intensity insurgency into a wave of brutal bomb attacks, assassinations, machete hackings and, in some cases, beheadings and mutilations in the past 3 1/2 years, an extensive Human Rights Watch report said today.

Interviews with witnesses, family members, academics, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists painted a bloody picture of the predominantly ethnic Malay provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla from January 2004 to last month.

Of the 2,463 people killed in attacks during that time, a total of 2,196, or 89 percent, have been civilians. "Violence against civilians is being used by separatist militants to scare Buddhist Thais away from these provinces, keep ethnic Malay Muslims under control and discredit the Thai authorities," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Village-based militants who call themselves the Patani Freedom Fighters have emerged as the core of a more violent generation of separatists bent on carving up the southern border provinces between ethnic Malay Muslims and so-called "infidels." They claim the land is a religious "conflict zone" that must be freed from what they term a Buddhist Thai occupation.

More than 3,000 attacks have targeted civilians since January 2004, including attacks on schools. Teachers, public health workers, hospital staff and infants in their mothers' arms have been victims of violent rampages that have terrorized inhabitants.

Summary executions based on ethnicity have been carried out by green-clad gunmen with assault rifles, who ambush victims along country roads, the report said.

Ethnic Malay Muslims suspected of collaborating with Thai authorities or known for their opposition to the militants have also come under attack. Those Malay Muslims are treated as "traitors or hypocrites" for betraying what Human Rights Watch described as "a radical blend of Malay nationalism and Islamist ideology."

One example was the killing of the son of one Muslim Malay village chief. Usman Jaema told Human Rights Watch that his 15-year-old son was hacked with machetes and axes in January 2004 by separatists who wanted to warn the chief not to oppose their operations.

"There are around 10 Muslim youths in this village who join the militants. They have been trained to become guerrilla fighters. They do not like me," Jaema was quoted as saying. "After the attack, my villagers look down on me. They said I could not protect my own son, then how could I be able to protect them? Some of them even said that it might be practical to give support to the militants to ensure their safety."


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