Thailand’s Troubled Southern Muslim Province

Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, writing in the Bangkok Post argues reports of torture and ill treatment of people in the southern Muslim province on the south are on the increase. He beleived the Thailand government must become more pro-active in addressing long festering problems related to lack of equal rights for Muslims in his nation. “Crimes are being committed extensively, particularly against civilians, and it is the general local population that suffers most.” Some of the challenges to Thailand’s government are:

1. The current State of Emergency Decree which prohibits visits by families and lawyers during the initial three days to those being detained creates hardships.
2. The three day rule begins anew if the person is moved from one location to another.
3, Various emergency laws allow authorities to detain people for seven days without any court process being initiated. The government insists the detained person is technically “helping authorities” which obviously is a euphimism for being arrested.
4. Many children under the age of eighteen have been detained which violates the rights of children to access to legal assistance. Poor women whose husbands have been arrested lack money for a family’s basic needs.

There is need for more aggressive programs that address issues of poverty in southern areas of Thailand and that provide greater opporunities for Muslims to become actively engaged in the political arena. Military action against terrorists is only one facet of any program of ending violence. Unless social, economic and political steps are taken, there will continue to be unrest in Muslim areas of Thailand.