Prosecutors play a crucial role in maintaining justice in Deep South
Widespread criticism of unfair justice system in the Deep South as perceived in the number of security-related cases being dismissed by the court is misleading, according to Mr Sophon Tipbamrung, Narathiwat provincial prosecutor.
In a recent exclusive interview with the Isra news agency, the veteran prosecutor pointed out that there are certain aspects about the justice system that have often been overlooked. Given the statistics of the number of court cases which were convicted or dismissed, justice system in the three southernmost provinces is not as bad as alleged, he said.
The followings are the statistics of court cases from 2004 to 2009:
- In 2004, three security-related crime cases were tried in the courts. There was one case of conviction and one case was dismissed with the rest still pending.
- In 2005, out of a total of 14 court cases, seven were convicted and seven were dismissed.
- In 2006, out of 19 court cases, 13 were convicted and the rest were dismissed.
- In 2007, out of 20 court cases, 18 were convicted.
- In 2008, out of 138 cases, 31 were convicted with the rest still pending on trial.
- In 2009, 43 cases were prosecuted. Of these, three were convicted, 19 dismissed and the rest still pending on trial.
To sum up, more than half of the cases that went to the courts were convicted. But more importantly, many cases were dropped by the prosecution due to insufficient evidences, said Mr Sophon.
The prosecutor explained that the job of the prosecutors in the Deep South was to determine whether the police charges against the suspects were substantiated or not and, if not, the charges would be dropped.
"Which explains why many of the cases which were sent to us by the police were dropped due to insufficient evidences," he said, adding that, for instance, in 2007, there were 73 cases which were submitted by the police to the prosecution, 20 of them were dropped and the rest were proceeded to the court.
"The prosecutors do not just base our judgement on whether there are sufficient evidences or not for each case but also about how credible are the evidences which can prove the suspects guilty," said Mr Sophon.
Another asject of justice system is the granting of bail to criminal suspects. As far as the prosecution is concerned, he said that the instruction from the Office of the Attorney-General is that granting bail for the suspects is the rule whereas denying bail is an exception.
"We have always strictly followed the law by the letters. That is if the suspects who were granted bail try to tamper with the evidences or try to intimidate witnesses, then their bail will not withdrawn immediately. And if they are not engaged in such illegal conduct, then bail will be granted or extended," the prosecutor explained.
He went on emphasizing that the religious faith of the suspects – whether they are Buddhists or Muslims – has never been used to determine whether a bail will be granted or denied.
In Narathiwat alone, he said that there have been several serious cases which are of public interest, among them the Tak Bai massacre and the attack on the Al Furgon mosque on June 8, 2009 in which ten Muslims were killed and 12 others injured.
As for the Al Furgon case, he disclosed that the Crime Suppression Division decided to not proceed with the case to the prosecution. However due to intense public interest about the case, the prosecution ordered the police to find more evidences about the case. In the end, the case went to the court with only one defendant charged.
Regarding important crime cases such as the Al Furgon massacre, the Office of the Attorney-General has made it a rule that if the provincial prosecutor in charge of a case decided not to pursue one or more charges to the court, the case must be referred to the regional prosecutor for consideration as a double-check.
Mr Sophon said he believed that the unrest situation in the Deep South tended to worsen because the public was not accessible to the whole truths about the situation or they were told half of the truths. He cited the widespread allegation that most of the security-related cases that went to the court were dismissed because many of the suspects were wrongly or unfairly charged.
To ensure justice in the restive region, at least, as far as public prosecutors are concerned, the Office of the Attorney-General has laid down a ground rule that only experienced prosecutors are to be assigned to the region.
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