Bangkok – The issue of extra-judicial killings and people "disappearing" in Thailand's troubled deep South has surfaced once again after Mr Anand Panyarachun, chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), raised the subject during a live broadcast with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last week. As concern grows, the Law Society of Thailand says it plans to set up a centre for missing persons.
Society president Dej-Udom Krairit noted that the recently-announced emergency decree gives security officials sweeping powers to question suspects in connection with the violence in the deep South. The new law allows officials to detain suspects up to 30 days without charge, as opposed to the 48-hour authorisation specified by the Panel Code Procedure, he said.
"What happens if they don't come back?" Mr Dej-Udom said, adding that the law gives too much power to officials and lacks transparency.
The Law Society urged so-called suspects to inform the organisation's volunteers about the date, place and time they are supposed to appear before officials. "This will give us the latest records about people's locations in case they disappear."
Dej-Udom also said the Law Society would investigate every missing person's case it is made aware of, and inform the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of rights violations.
In his television appearance with Prime Minister Thaksin on Sept 28, Mr Anand, quoting local residents in Yala, Narthiwat and Pattani, said hundreds of people had gone missing since the outbreak of the present wave of violence 19 months ago.
Community leaders said the government's inability to contain the violence had led many locals to suspect the authorities of being behind the disappearances in the mainly-Muslim region. Others believe that the violence is being orchestrated by rival government agencies. The government has denied the allegations.
* Disappearances: Law Soceity to monitor the missing (The Nation, Aug 3)