Thai police criticised for excessive force in two tragedies

Updated On: Apr 26, 2005

Bangkok - The use of overwhelming force has been blamed for two bloody incidents in the restive South that have marred Thailand's international image. The government reports on the Krue Se and Tak Bai clashes were released in toto – almost - by the National Reconciliation Commission led by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun on April 24.  

   The report into the Krue Se mosque massacre where 32 militants were killed on April 28, 2004, said the remote location of the mosque meant that the military could have surrounded the area and attempted negotiations. Instead, security forces resorted to disproportionate use of force. 
    The report into the Oct 25, 2004, Tak Bai clash said superior officers were wrong to allow junior officers handle the transportation of demonstrators in army trucks from the town of Tak Bai to Pattani. Their ignorance and negligence led to the deaths of 78 detainees, who died of suffocation on board the trucks.The Tai Bak report holds responsible five army generals, while the Krue Se report says deputy prime minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Internal Security Operations Command deputy director Gen Pallop Pinmanee, and then Fourth Army chief Lt-Gen Pisarn Wattanawongkeeree were all involved in that incident. 
     According to the report, the officers' claims that they had to use weapons to protect themselves and innocent people were not convincing because Krue Se mosque was remote from communities and the number of protesters was low. Surrounding the mosque and opting for negotiations could have led to their surrender.   
    The Ta Bak report said most of the 85 deaths (including seven people who died during the protest in front of the police station), stemmed from the negligence and ignorance of superiors who let low-ranking officers handle the transfer of the protesters in army trucks in a reckless manner. The 78 who died of suffocation were weak and dehydrated when they were loaded onto trucks. 
     Parts of the two reports, which were written by independent panels, had been released by the Thaksin government earlier. The reconciliation commission had requested for the full reports to be released as part of its efforts to restore peace the trouble south.
    However, some sections of the two reports remain private, which Mr Anand said is necessary to protect the rights of witnesses and preventing the release of details which could harm the reconciliation process.  
    “The commission realises that disclosure of both reports will be just the beginning of the process to unveil truth in our society," Mr Anand said.

* Use of force at Krue Se condemned (Bangkok Post, April 25)