New hope for justice for unresolved cases in deep South?
In yet another attempt to win back the hearts and minds of the Malay Muslims in the deep South, the Fourth Army Region will reinvestigate all the unresolved security-related criminal cases in which the Malay Muslim victims died in custody or were killed under suspicious circumstances.
A well-informed source at the fourth region forward officeof the Internal Security Operations Command said that the new policy, known as “Returning the Justice”, was the brainchild of Lt-Gen Udomchai Thammasarorach, commander of the Fourth Army Region.
The policy was the result of in-depth analysis of the unrest situation for the past seven years and extensive discussions of the situation with all stakeholders in the region, including the chief judges of the three southernmost provinces, the Region 9 chief prosecutor and Muslim lawyers. It was concurred by all parties concerned that the biggest problem which was believed to be a major source of widespread discontent with and mistrust of the authorities was injustice pertaining to several security-related cases involving Malay Muslims.
At least two cases were cited. The first was the gun attack of worshippers at Al Furagon mosque in Ban Aipayae in Cho Ai Rong district of Narathiwat on June 8, 2009, by suspected gunmen believed to be para military rangers. About a dozen people were killed. So far, no suspects have been arrested.
The second case was the mysterious death of Suliaman Nasae, a suspected militant, while in custody at the enquiry centre of Ingkayuth barrack in Nong Chik district of Pattani on May 30 last year. He was found hanged with a piece of cloth tied to the iron bar of his detention cell.
The source said that relatives of the two victims and many Malay Muslims were suspicious of the way the cases were handled by authorities concerned and they strongly felt that they were not accorded the justice.
Besides the dead victims in unresolved cases, the “Returning the Justice” policy will also cover defendants or suspects in security-related cases who are not granted bail. The source said that ISOC has been coordinating with the Justice Ministry and the Foundation for Muslim Lawyers to arrange for bail to be granted to these people.
Also, families of the dead victims or detainees of security charges will be provided with occaptional training if they so wish so that they will have a means to make a living in case the breadwinners of the families died or are jailed.
The source further said that the new policy was also aimed to “bring back home” misguided youths who were misled to join the militant gangs. “These militants are not criminals. We believe they were misguided and they can be brought back and have their minds changed,” said the source.
The Fourth Army Region believes that many of the core members of the militant gangs operating in the deep South were involved in illegal activities such as drug and contraband trafficking for their own benefits.
Against the backdrop of a backlog of the resolved security-related cases which was believed to be the cause of widespread resentment among the Malay Muslims in the region, there is however a silver lining – that is the case of Mr Yapha Kaseng, the imam of Ban Kortor masjid in Rue Soh district of Narathiwat.
The imam was arrested on security charges between March 19-20, 2008. He died in custody on March 21, believed beaten to death by soldiers.
The victim’s wife, Mrs Nima Kaseng, filed both civil and criminal charges against those responsible for her husband’s death. The civil lawsuit was however settled on July 20 this year at the Civil Court after the the army and the police (the first and second defendants) agreed to pay compensation amounting to 5.2 million baht to the victim’s family.
As for the criminal proceedings against the perpetrators responsible for the imam’s death, the case is still pending with the National Commission to Counter Corruption. However, Mrs Nima took the case to the Narathiwat provincial court herself against six officials, among them are Major Vicha Phuthong, Sub-Lt Sirikhet Vaanichbamrung, Sgt Maj Roengnarong Bua-ngam, Sgt Narongrith Harnvech, Sgt Bandhit Thinsook and Pol Colonel Thanongsak Wangsupha, former superintendent of Rue Soh police.
The Narathiwat provincial court dismissed the case and asked Mrs Nima to take the case to the military court which has jurisdiction over the case. She however appealed the ruling to the Appeals Court which also upheld the provincial court’s ruling to dismiss the case.
1) Al Furagon mosque in Ban Aipayae in Cho Ai Rong district of Narathiwat
2) Mr Yapha Kaseng