Bangkok – An urgent overhaul of the justice system is needed if peace is to be restored in Thailand's deep South, said Mr Anand Panyarachun, chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC). He also attributed the rising violence in the region to perceived injustices.
"Law enforcement is about the dispensing of justice but in Thailand the voice of the people is still weak in countering abuses by the powers-that-be," the former prime minister said on Aug 24.
He was speaking at an NRC-sponsored seminar which was organised to coincide with a parliamentary debate on the government's enactment of emergency provisions for anti-terrorism measures.
Mr Anand warned that putting more powers in the hands of those who have no proper understanding of local customs and traditions would only fuel the violence in the provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.
On the sensitive issue of abduction and extra-judicial killings by state officials, Mr Anand said that such practices had been happening for some time. But the problem was that society had chosen to tolerate it, instead of making somebody accountable.
He suggested that an independent agency for the three provinces be formed to handle complaints relating to arbitrary justice, forced disappearance, abduction and other legal grievances.
Another speaker at the seminar, Judge Jaran Pakdithanakul, said that law enforcement authorities had unwittingly caused hatred and misunderstanding. "Many officials work hard to solve crimes. But some vent their frustration at Muslim suspects by smearing them with pork lard," he said.
Former deputy national police chief, General Visit Dejkunchorn, said the governemtn could never regain the people's trust unless it proved its sincerity. One way to do this is to apologise for the wrongs done to residents in the South.
"It is not difficult to express regrets and remorse. Authorities are not liable for criminal prosecution although they would face disciplinary proceedings," Gen Visit said.
* NRC blames southern violence on 'injustices' (The Nation, Aug 25)