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Martial Law allows military in Patani to arrest civilian for merely taking pictures

Photo from Deep South Watch
“Don’t you know, we are here under Martial Law” said the officer to Faisal when he refused to delete the photos he took of the officers while they were escorting home a man they had arrested earlier that morning. When Faisal refused, he was arrested. The officers seized his phone, deleted the photos and read his messages on his Facebook and Line social media accounts. However, the most concerning aspect of all this is not the officer’s actions but the fact that such violations of an individual’s rights are legal under Martial Law.
Malays from the Patani1 region in southern Thailand have long accused the authorities of treating them as second class citizens. Fourteen years of Martial Law in the three provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat - the region which made up the former Patani kingdom before it was annexed by Siam (modern day Thailand) - only re-enforces the feeling amongst the local Malay population of having less rights than the rest of Thailand.
Of course, Thailand as a whole has seen a disturbingly downward turn in democratic practices and the protection of individual rights since the military coup in 2014. However, it is important to point out that the inhabitants living under Martial law in the Patani region live under a separate regime altogether with even less respect for individuals’ rights and allows the authorities to operate with impunity. For example, despite 382 recorded extrajudicial killings2 between 2004 and 2017 in the Patani region, not one security official has ever been convicted for an extrajudicial killing in court.
Last month, Khaosod English published an article informing Thai citizens of their rights if stopped by police officers. According to the article, police officers have the right to search people and their property. However, citizens have the right to film or take pictures of the police as long as it does not interfere with the police’s work. For those living under Martial Law in the Patani region however, they are living under an entirely different set of laws. Faisal Daleng3, an activist and a former coordinator for PerMAS (Patani Student and Youth Union) based in Bangkok experienced this first hand when he decided to document military officers escorting home a man they had earlier detained.
Faisal Daleng (left) is a former coordinator of a Deep South student activist group called PerMas
Faisal had arrived in his hometown in Yala province in December 2017. On 22nd December, he was informed of a raid on a house in Bo Thong village, Bannangsta district in Yala which took place at 3.00am. A man was arrested by the Special Task Forces (known as Chor Kor in Thai). Faisal went to speak to the village head early that morning to find out information about what had happened. At 8.00am, Faisal witnessed officers returning to the house with the detained man. Faisal documented the event by taking photos. An officer noticed Faisal taking pictures, shouted at him and asked what he was doing. Then the officer ordered Faisal to delete the photos he took. “Don’t you know we are here under Martial Law” was the officer’s justification for the order.
Faisal refused saying that it was his right to document the event for the safety of the suspect’s family and villagers. The Special Task Force is one of the military groups which has been linked to extrajudicial killings. On 14th July 2017, the Special Task Force was part of a 20 man team which escorted one suspect, Mr. Paoyee Tasamoh, home. He had been detained two days earlier. When being escorted to the back of his house, the officers alleged that Mr. Paoyee managed to set himself free, obtain a pistol and shoot two shots at the officers before the officers shot him dead4. So understandably, activists and villagers have very legitimate reasons to document such military operations.
Faisal was threatened with being arrested if he did not comply with the officer’s orders but he still refused. He was taken into custody and held at the 33th Ranger Forces Regiment centre in Banangsta, Yala. An officer seized Faisal’s phone. Once they arrived in Bannangsta, the officer searched information on Faisal’s phone including his Facebook and LINE accounts in front of Faisal. Faisal was concerned because he had messages from other activists on his phone. Faisal was released the same day at 12.30pm. Before he was released, his phone was returned to him but the officer said that he had deleted all of the photos Faisal had taken that day. Faisal was also given a blank sheet of paper and instructed by the officer to write down information about his background including details of his car registration and even information about his close friends.
Because of Martial Law, the arrest of Faisal, the seizing of his phone and reading through his private messages is all legal in Patani. According to Section 8 of the Martial Law Act, “the military authority shall have full power of search, compulsory requisition, prohibition, seizure, staying in, destruction or alteration of any place and turning out of persons”. Sections 9 and 12 state that items which can be searched and seized include messages, letters, telegraphs, letters, parcels, books, newspapers and even poems. Officers can also “cordon off, search, arrest and detain persons without having to establish search warrants or arrest warrants issued by the Court”. So potentially anyone can be detained for up to seven days without an arrest warrant as it is completely up to the discretion of security officers.
Of course, the situation in the Patani region is not the same as the rest of Thailand. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured since the latest eruption of the conflict in Patani which began in 2004, including the killing of 136 teachers and 238 children. Although the government still wishes to deny it, the situation in Patani is a internal armed conflict according to international human rights groups such as Amnesty International which means it must be subject to international humanitarian law.
The treatment of Faisal as well as other documented accounts of harassment and abuse of human right defenders in the Patani region has nothing to do with national security. The Martial Law Act is a violation of Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law and it adds to the grievances of the local population in Patani, only confirming the idea that they are second class citizens.
Adam John is a British national who lives in Sweden and is a supporter of non-violent political activism in Patani.
Endnote
[1] I use the term ‘Patani’ since it recognises the historic cultural identity of the region. This is not to be confused with ‘Pattani’ - a province which makes up only part of the region.
[2] Duay Jai and HAP. 2018. Monitoring and fact finding situation in Deep South Thailand report 2016-2017.
[3] The events described in the article of Faisal Daleng’s arrest were taken from a testimony in Thai written by Faisal.
[4] Duay Jai and HAP. 2018. Monitoring and fact finding situation in Deep South Thailand report 2016-2017.
[6] Cross Cultural Foundation. 2013. Nine years of Martial Laws in Southern Border Provinces. https://voicefromthais.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/south-thailand-nine-year...
[7] Duay Jai and HAP. 2018. Monitoring and fact finding situation in Deep South Thailand report 2016-2017.
[8] Amnesty International. 2011. “They took nothing but his life”. Unlawful killings in Thailand’s southern insurgency. https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/28000/asa390022011en.pdf
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