Continuing violence in South Thailand and sensitivities in Malaysia-Thailand relations

Updated On: Jan 20, 2006

As the state of emergency in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, adjacent to Malaysia, extends for another three months, rights groups have denounced the move, which was first enacted in July 2005 without parliamentary approval.

They say the emergency has instead increased violence by allowing abuses of constitutional rights as the government imposes draconian curfews, ban public gatherings, censor and ban publications, detain suspects without charge, confiscate property and tap telephones. It also shields officials from "civil, criminal and disciplinary penalties'' when acting under its provisions. Nevertheless, Justice Minister Chidchai Vanasathidya said, "We can extend (emergency rule) every three months as… militants are still killing innocent people and ambushing government officials."

This comes amid deputy chairman of the National Security Council's strategic non-violence committee, Mark Tamthai's recommendation to make the Malay dialect another official language of the region to help restore peace and unity. "The government need not fear that local Muslims in the deep South will not speak Thai after they are allowed to use their own dialect as an official language.” There is also the establishment of the newIndependent Commission on Justice and Civil Liberties for the Southern Border Provinces.

As such measures continue, a Malaysian band, Raihan, entertained young Thai Muslims in Pattani by spreading the message of religious tolerance, love and harmony found in Islamic teachings. "We were worried by the violence but we had to come to send a message to Muslims here, to be united and to respect each other," said band member Che Amran. "Good Muslims do not kill people." Nuraisor Tono, a teacher from Sai Buri district, said "Their songs teach us to love Allah and all mankind. Just attending the concert gave us some happiness and a welcome respite.” Sulaida Abdullah added, "Muslim women rarely have such an opportunity to relax."

Diplomatic confusion has come about over the 130 Thai Muslims who fled into Kelantan last August. Malaysia has issued an apology to Thailand that one of its ministers "miscommunicated" by announcing that all had been released and sent back to Thailand. No such release occurred.

Earlier in the week, Minister Mohamad Radzi Sheikh Ahmad had told reporters, "No more issues. All have been sent back… Both sides are very happy." Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail later said his statement on the release of the refugees was a miscommunication and “sincerely apologised for the wrong information on the matter."

Both men's statements caused surprise in Thailand as Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said as far as he knew, "the 131 people are still in Malaysia and Malaysia is taking care of them". "I checked with the Foreign Ministry, our embassy in Malaysia and police officials. Nobody said there was a release of 131 Muslim Thais from Malaysia," he told reporters. “ The Malaysian government has not told us anything.” Sources:

Panel to monitor justice in South The Nation, 18 January 2006

Porntip to exhume 300 bodies to find 'missing' Bangkok Post, 18 January 2006

Emergency law extended three months Bangkok Post, 18 January 2006

KL sparks confusion over Thai refugees' fate The Nation, 18 January 2006

Govt urged to make Malay official language Bangkok Post, 17 January 2006

Teachers abandon schools after attack Bangkok Post, 17 January 2006

Emergency rule for deep South extended The Nation, 17 January 2006

State of emergency extended in south Thailand adjoining Malaysia The Star /AP, 17 January 2006

Malaysia repatriates 130 Thai Muslim Refugees The Nation, 17 January 2006

130 Thai Muslims still in Malaysia Bangkok Post, 17 January 2006

Raihan brings message of peace Bangkok Post, 16 January 2006