Problematic justice process in the deep South
Justice process which cannot assure justice is cited as one of the factors contributing to the unrest problem in the deep South. This assumption was discussed in an article recently written by Poonyawee Prachuablarp, an assistant judge and a member of the Thai Bar Association. The followings are extracts of her article.
The writer concluded that the unrest problem dated back to the old days when the Thai government then pursued expansionist policy and wanted to annex the Pattani state which was then a vassal state as part of the kingdom. Thai nationalist policy called for the forced introduction of Thai language and culture as well as Buddhism into Pattani state resulting to stiff resistance from the local Malay Muslims which has persisted until today.
The unrest problem was manifested in the form of violent incidents against government officials and civilians as well as state properties such as schools and government offices.
The writer cited a study by the parliamentary ad hoc committee tasked with investigating and studying the unrest problem in the deep South and the Truth Commission. The study identified a set of problems related to criminal justice process as follows: lack of a strategy in the development of justice process and lack of coordination among law enforcement agencies; biased and inaccurate intelligence information causing public loss of faith in the authorities; human rights violations by state officials; unfair law enforcement in cases of which state officials were accused of committing offences against the civilians; refusal of witnesses to testify for fear of their own safety resulting to the acquittal of several criminal cases due to insufficient evidences; and limited number of Muslim lawyers.
These problems, according to the writer, were caused by wrong criminal policy. Then what is the right criminal policy?
The right criminal policy should encompass state policy pertaining to criminal offences before they are committed in order to pre-empt an offence from being committed or to reduce the number of crime cases as many as possible. The appropriate criminal policy must take into account the social, economical, cultural and religious aspects of the southernmost border provinces and must involve the participation of all sectors.
The writer pointed out that there is a conflict of opinions between two schools of thought – the Crime Control Model which favours tough crime suppression and the Due Process Model which emphasizes on the rule of law and respect of rights and freedom of the individuals. But he said that the right criminal policy should be a mix of the two models with check and balance against each other.
State officials are in favour of Crime Control Model which was clearly reflected in the imposition of the Martial Law and state of emergency in the restive region. Supporters of this school of thought have argued that the Due Process Model will not work in the restive region because the perpetrators or the militants have been indoctrinated or brainwashed to the point that they are capable to commit all forms of violence to protect Islam. Examples of their atrocities include beheadings of victims and arson attacks against schools.
More importantly, the right criminal policy must allow all sectors to participate in policy making, especially people in the deep South who have been affected by the violence. The policy which was made by the state without the participation of other stakeholders will never resolve the problem but would more likely infuriate the militant groups.
Criminal policy pertaining to human rights protection is an important policy deserved to be given top priority, said the writer. There should be a check of the use of power under the emergency decree by state officials to prevent abuses. For instance the issue about arrest, state officials on various occasions did not distinguish between making an arrest and inviting someone to testify before the authorities. Relatives of the suspects must be told the reason why the suspects are to be invited or summonsed to testify.
The real problem in the justice process pertaining to human rights violations stems from the partiality or bias of the state officials against the suspected offenders, said the writer.
Caption : Prison in far South of Thailand