Local reporter in Pattani feels unsafe after a strange visit at home
On 13 Sept, Ishmael Hayiwaeji, editor of the news website Wartani based in Pattani, filed a complaint with police after he was visited at home by a group of men who he believed were plainclothes officials.
Ishmael Hayiwaeji, editor of Wartani website
According to Ishmael, he came home in the afternoon and called his wife, who was alone in the house, to open the door for him, unaware that he was being followed.
When the door was opened and he was moving inside, a pickup truck stopped in front of their house and a group of 4 men got off and pushed through the door. Out of fear, his wife went to the back of the house.
One of the men asked him why she fled, and he told them that his wife needed to find her scarf to wear according to the Muslim dress code, as they were strangers in their home.
Ishmael noticed that three of the men placed their hands on their waistbands where there were bulging objects which looked like pistols.
They asked him whether it was his home and what he did for a living. He said yes, and told them that he was a reporter. And then they just left the house.
However, he noticed that they stayed near his house for a while longer.
He remembered the license number of the vehicle, a black Mitsubishi Triton pickup truck, and informed the police about it.
Police daily record
Ishmael said that he was very worried by this incident. His wife always stays home alone and his neighborhood was very quiet as that was the time when people go to work.
After the incident, he asked his wife to stay with a friend and he himself did not dare stay at the house.
Ishmael and his wife at his commencement ceremony in 2012. He completed a degree in Area Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts of Walailak University.
He suspected that the men were plainclothes officials, as a few months earlier some officials had visited his mother’s house where he stayed before getting married and moving out to a rented house.
These officials, however, did not tell his family members about their particular purpose of their visit.
Prior to the visit by these strangers, he followed up and reported on local protests in front of a military base in Wang Phaya subdistrict in Yala province, calling for the release of a teacher from a religious school for young children.
At one point during the protests, the officials took the identification cards of the protest leaders, as well as his, to be photocopied.
“They opened my wallet and had all the items in there photocopied,’ he said.
Afterwards, he found himself a target of intimidation and threats in the social media by groups of people, including one particular group called ‘South Dark’, which published his picture and accused him of being a supporter of the separatist movement.
The picture was obviously one of those taken by the officials during the protests at the military base in Wang Phaya, he said.
“Atef Sogo, one of the protest leaders, has also had a similar experience. A group of armed men was found to be going around his house. One night, some strangers knocked on his door. He posted his stories on his Facebook page. Now everybody is cautious as we think we are being targeted,” he said.
“Lately, the black Mitsubishi Triton pickup truck has become a symbol of violence. Many local people dread hearing about it, because this vehicle is said to be associated with violent killings by gunfire,” he said.
Police investigation found that the license number belongs to a Toyota car. The police assume that the Mitsubishi Triton pickup truck used a falsified license plate.
Wartani is a website run by local young people, and is one of the few remaining alternative sources of news on the three southern border provinces.