Torture of Malay Muslims reportedly still rampant in Deep South

Allegations of torture and ill-treatment committed by state authorities against the Malay Muslim minority in the restive Deep South are currently double the level reported after the 2014 coup d’état.   

The Muslim Attorney Centre (MAC), a civil society organisation providing legal aid in the Deep South, on Tuesday, 2 February 2016, published a report on allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Deep South insurgent suspects arrested and detained under special security laws in the region in 2015.

In the violence-plagued southernmost provinces of Thailand, formerly called Patani, composed of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla, the authorities can detain citizens without charge for up to 37 days under the Emergency Decree and Internal Security Act. Special security laws have been in force in the region for more than a decade.

In the report, the MAC recorded allegations of torture and ill-treatment of 33 detainees in the region, with 11 cases in Pattani, 15 in Yala, six Narathiwat, and one in Songkhla.    

The number of cases is nearly double that given in a report compiled by Cross Cultural Foundation and the Duay Jai Group last month, which documented at least 18 cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment since the coup d’état on 22 May 2014.   

The documentation is based on allegations made by former detainees and their families.

Of the 33 cases, MAC documented that 29 detainees were reportedly beaten or hit with hard objects, 7 were put in a room kept at a low temperature, 5 were suffocated, and 4 were electrocuted.

In addition, there were between 1 and 3 cases each in which detainees reportedly were pierced with needles, tortured with pliers, forced to drink their own urine, stripped naked, injected with unspecified chemicals, tortured in the genitals, and threatened with execution.  

The MAC added in the report that documentation of the allegations was difficult because most family members were closely monitored by state officials when they visited the detainees. In some cases, the officials took photos of family members of the detainees when they visited.

The MAC was allowed to talk to detainees only via a computer screen under tight monitoring by officials. Moreover, officials usually reduced the time that the detainees were allowed visitors, despite the fact that in most detention facilities, family members of detainees are allowed 30-minute visits.

The MAC concludes that despite the ongoing peace talks between MARA Pattani, a coalition of Deep South insurgent groups, and the Thai state, torture and extrajudicial killings are still prevalent in the Deep South, partly due to the fact that most state officials have not been held responsible for their actions due to special security laws imposed in the region.  

The organisation suggested that unless the state addresses the serious human rights issues of torture and the culture of impunity, lasting peace in the Deep South will continue to be nothing more than a wishful dream. 

According to a shadow report submitted to the UN in 2014 on Thailand’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture, 393 out of 3,456 allegations of rights violations in the Deep South are related to ill-treatment and torture by state officials.            

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