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KRUE SE, TAK BAI REPORTS: Muslims hail ‘first good step' by NRC PDF Print E-mail

Published on April 26, 2005

Released findings accuse authorities of excessive force leading to scores of deaths

Muslim leaders have cautiously welcomed the National Recon-ciliation Commis-sion's (NRC) release of previously undisclosed details of government probes into the Krue Se and Tak Bai bloodbaths, although the newly publicised information is likely to spark fresh controversy.

The Muslim leaders view the commission's decision as a good first step toward res-toring trust and goodwill between people in the southernmost provinces and the state, although they warn there is a long and rocky road ahead.

The released findings contain information that could refuel resentment among the local people toward the Thaksin Shina-watra government, such as the disclosure that some Tak Bai protesters were shot in the head. But the Muslim leaders are hopeful that the government coming clean on the authorities' use of excessive violence should improve the situation rather than aggravate it.

"People had long demanded this disclosure, so the general feelings have to be more positive," said Rosidee Lert-ariyapongkul, acting chairman of Muslim Youth of Thailand. "It's the beginning of the rebuilding of lost trust."

This comment was echoed by other Islamic leaders, who however cautioned that the apparent admission of state violence must be followed up by sincere rehabilitation efforts.

"Families grieving and suffering as a results of the two incidents are waiting for more gestures from the state than the disclosure of the investigation reports," said Abdullohman Abdulsamad, chairman of the Narathiwat Islamic Committee, who is also an NRC member.

The released findings accuse the military and authorities of employing excessive force leading to the deaths of scores of Muslim protesters. The two government reports - ordered released on Sunday by the NRC - offer more detail than previous reports delivered by the government, particularly in terms of the information concerning Tak Bai, which clearly states that seven of the protesters on October 25 were shot dead during the crackdown.

"A video clip has shown that some soldiers fired their guns in a horizontal direction [...] the crackdown killed seven protesters and five of them were apparently shot in the head," the 19th page of the report on the incident says.

The facts now made public in the latest report contradict previous claims by the military that the soldiers had fired into the air and were not targeting protesters.

The death by suffocation of 78 Muslims - who were being transported by military trucks to an Army camp following the Tak Bai protest - is also detailed in the latest report, which names more of the senior military officers involved at the scene. These include those holding the ranks of lieutenant-colonel and colonel.

The independent panel which compiled the report on Tak Bai said that the Chief Field Operation commander for the crackdown, Maj-General Chalermchai Wiroonphet, left the scene without a clear reason while the loading of the protesters into the trucks was taking place.

On its 32nd page, the report also accuses the then Fourth Army Region commander Pisarn Wattanawongkiri of remaining silent for some time despite his knowledge of the massive death toll.

Pisarn said that he received word of the number of deaths at 7.45am on October 26, but the report argues that he knew about the toll by 1.30am.

Pisarn, one of his deputies and Chalermchai were removed from their posts after the investigation amid criticism that the punishment they had received was too lenient.

The report on the Krue Se Mosque incident that caused the death of 32 Muslim protesters also offers further details about the responsible officials at the scene.

At least 11 senior officials were in charge on the day and many of them are described as playing a key role at the scene.

The latest report confirms that the officials used excessive force to put an end to the events on April 28.

It also says that officials at the scene had failed to pay attention to the instructions of the deputy prime minister at the time, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who asked for peaceful means to be employed to end the incident.

There was no attempt by officials to negotiate with the militants to end the incident in peace, the report notes, adding that they were simply offered an ultimatum to surrender.

The report on the Krue Se incident also concludes that officials used excessive force with improper means, but it stops short of suggesting how those responsible should be dealt with.

Meanwhile, NRC chairman Anand Panyarachun last night expressed hope that Thailand could "return to the peace path in the foreseeable future".

"We seem to have lost our way" over the past one year and a half, he said.

Speaking at the Austrian Embassy in Bangkok, Anand praised the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation, which is headed by Uwe Morawetz, for its "Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" project, which was carried out in Thailand earlier this year and during 2004.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee -  The Nation

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