Tag Archives: Tak Bai

Questions, not dismay, over Tak Bai findings

tak bai truck

It took five years for a court in Songkhla, southern Thailand, to hold an inquest into the deaths of 78 men after they were detained along with over 1,000 others outside the Tak Bai police station in October 2004. But for all the time spent and witnesses heard, the findings [in English] handed down on May 29 obscured as much as they revealed.

By law, the inquest was supposed to identify who died, where, when, how, why and thanks to whom. The judges omitted most of what the court was told about the how and why, and failed to name any specific responsible persons in their closing remarks.

They also tried to excuse those involved by pointing out that they had been performing their duties under difficult circumstances, even though this is a matter for a trial court to consider, not one for a post mortem inquiry.

While the court failed to do the minimum expected of it under law, it could not deny that the 78 men had all suffocated to death in trucks en route to an army camp. That the men were stacked onto one another like pigs being taken to slaughter slipped from the narrative, but that they were in military custody and died of unnatural causes is now on the judicial record. Continue reading


Thailand’s rights reputation in the sewer



Not so long ago, Thailand’s representatives at United Nations meetings sat quietly while counterparts from nearby countries like Burma and Cambodia were grilled on their human rights records.

Around the world, Thailand’s legal, political and social developments in the 1990s were greeted with applause, and its people in Geneva could sit comfortably, confident that their country would be held up as an example of somewhere with an improved record, even as their neighbors were being singled out for the opposite reason.

How times have changed. This week, the Asian Legal Resource Center submitted a statement to the Human Rights Council (above) that has painted the bleakest picture yet of denied rights and declining rule of law in Thailand during the past few years. [การเติบโตขึ้นของรัฐแห่งความมั่นคงภายในและการเสื่อมถอยของสิทธิมนุษยชนในประเทศไทย]

According to the Hong Kong-based group, Thailand is now in real danger of turning back into an internal-security state. The center’s indicators include the repeated overthrow of elected governments by antidemocratic forces, large-scale public criminal activity with impunity, Internet censorship and the lese-majesty witch-hunt, threats to human rights defenders, and forced repatriation and murder on the high seas. Continue reading

“Tak Bai? Ohh… you have heard about that incident? Did you?”


Interview with Samak Sundaravej, Prime Minister of Thailand

101 East, Al Jazeera, 9 February 2008

Part 2

Start: 3:41

Your predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, was criticised for a pretty brutal campaign against Muslim fighters in southern Thailand. Many people who were innocent were caught up in that violence. Do you support his policies in southern Thailand?

Actually, he doesn’t mention any policy. The wrong that he committed, somebody says that… ahh… he says that it… ahh… it’s not quite so important mandate, and that’s all. That is what he mentioned.

But if we refer to Tak Bai, the Tak Bai incident, when many young Muslim men were beaten and rounded up and their bodies were stacked into trucks, many of them suffocated and died…


At Tak Bai.

Tak Bai? Ohh… You have heard about that incident? Did you? Continue reading

The trouble with “sorry”


Among the contingents of soldiers manning checkpoints and keeping watch on the public throughout August, in the eve and aftermath of Thailand’s military-backed constitutional referendum, at least one took its work a bit too far.

The unit, on detail in Lamphun, just south of Chiang Mai, on Aug. 11 knocked a teenager off his motorcycle, circled him and took turns at kicking his head before letting him go. The reason? They thought that the boy, Ronachai Jantra (shown above), had thrown a bottle at them while riding past.

This is an everyday sort of event in Thailand, and it would not have attracted any attention except that it was captured on film by a camera crew that happened to be nearby at the time.

After the recording was broadcast on television (and online at http://tna.mcot.net/i-content.php?clip_id=qqScpqY=&size=256k), the senior officer responsible for the north, Lt. Gen. Jiradet Kocharat, said on local radio that the army had investigated and warned the soldiers about their behavior, and made them say sorry to the victim.

“Soldiers have to put up with things that they shouldn’t have to,” he explained. “When there’re a lot of people, and then there’s a lot of work and stress, they have to be told to use patience. And if there’s some mistake they have to go apologize and also make amends.”

The commander’s response to the incident points to one of the many deep obstacles to the establishing of both an effective justice system and a culture of human rights in Thailand: calculated atonement as a substitute for criminal punishment.

Continue reading