Covering events from January - December 2004
Violence erupted in the four Muslim-majority southern provinces in January, when members of a Muslim armed group attacked an army base. In the course of the year over 500 people were killed in the southern provinces. At least three human rights defenders were killed or "disappeared". The deaths of over 2,000 people in a government-sponsored anti-drugs campaign in 2003 were not properly investigated, reinforcing a climate of impunity among the security forces. The government registered over one million migrant workers in July but many of them were denied basic labour rights. Some 900 people were reported to be under sentence of death. No executions were known to have taken place. Over 5,000 people in Thailand were killed by the tsunami that struck Indian Ocean countries on 26 December. Hundreds of migrant workers from Myanmar were reportedly killed but not included in official casualty figures. Other workers from Myanmar were arrested and harassed by the security forces, and hundreds went into hiding as a result.
Violence in the south
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra extended existing martial law provisions in some areas of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces in the south of the country after an upsurge in violence which began in January. During the year over 500 people were killed, including civilians, civil servants, members of the security forces and members of armed groups.
On 28 April, 11 police outposts and stations were attacked by Muslim men, mostly armed with knives and a few firearms. Five policemen were killed. The security forces retaliated by opening fire on the attackers, killing over 100 of them.
In October a group of Muslims gathered in front of Tak Bai police station, Narathiwat Province, protesting against the detention of six people for allegedly passing weapons to insurgents. When demonstrators threw rocks and attempted to storm the police station, security forces used tear gas and gunfire in response.
Human rights violations
- In March, Somchai Neelaijaipit, a prominent Muslim lawyer who campaigned for an end to martial law and was representing five Muslim men who had been tortured after their arrest in Narathiwat Province, "disappeared" in Bangkok. Five policemen were arrested in connection with the "disappearance" and released on bail pending court hearings.
- On 28 April, 32 Muslim men were killed by security forces using heavy weapons at Krue Se Mosque, Pattani Province, following an attack on a police station. A government-appointed commission investigated the incident, reportedly finding that the security forces had used force disproportionate to the threat, although their report was not made public. The attacks on 10 other police stations and the security forces' response were not known to have been independently investigated.
- In October at Tak Bai police station at least six demonstrators were killed and some 1,300 arrested and transported to an army base where many were beaten. At least 78 of them died, reportedly as a result of overcrowding during the journey and ill-treatment. The vast majority were released without charge after interrogation, but 58 were charged with unlawful gathering. The government appointed an 11-member commission to conduct an investigation. They reported their findings to the government in December, but the findings were not made public. No one was known to have been brought to justice for the killings.
Abuses by armed opposition groups
Attacks against government officials and installations by unidentified armed groups continued in the south.
- In September, Rapin Ruankaew, a provincial judge, was shot dead by unknown armed men on motorcycles while he was driving to work in Pattani town.
- In November, Ran Tulae, a Buddhist village headman, was killed by an unknown group in Narathiwat Province. A note left near his severed head claimed revenge for the October deaths of demonstrators at Tak Bai police station.
Human rights defenders
At least three human rights defenders were killed or "disappeared" during 2004. In July the Minister of Justice announced that a list of human rights defenders at risk would be compiled and protection provided. However, the government was not known to have initiated independent investigations into abuses against human rights defenders.
- In June environmental activist Charoen Wat-aksorn was killed by unknown assailants after filing a complaint with a Senate committee. He was a small-scale fisherman who had led a campaign against the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Ba Nok district, Prachuab Kiri Khan Province, on the Gulf of Thailand. By the end of 2004 no one was known to have been brought to justice for his killing.
In March the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on human rights defenders reported the findings of her visit in May 2003. Her report included a recommendation that the government reassess its approach to the rights to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly.
Refugees and migrant workers
Some 142,000 Karen and Karenni refugees from Myanmar remained in camps on the border. Hundreds of other refugees from Myanmar were resettled to third countries.
Small numbers of refugees, most of them members of the Hmong ethnic minority, entered Thailand fleeing armed conflict between Hmong armed groups and the Lao army (see Laos entry). Some 4,500 Hmong refugees living at Wat Thamkrabok, a Buddhist temple in Saraburi Province, were resettled to third countries during 2004.
Over one million migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were registered by the government in July. Registration allowed them to work legally for one year in some sectors of the economy. However, many of them were denied basic labour rights, most notably a legal minimum wage set by the government.
The deaths of over 2,000 people in a 2003 government-sponsored anti-drugs campaign were not properly investigated, reinforcing a climate of impunity among the security forces. No one was known to have been brought to justice for the killings of Muslims in the southern provinces by security forces in April and October 2004.
In September the government told AI that there had been no extrajudicial killings during the 2003 "drugs war". They also said that the use of deadly force by the security forces in the south was strictly legal in all cases.
Prisoner of conscience
Sok Yoeun, a Cambodian prisoner of conscience and refugee held in Thailand since 1999, was released in March and resettled to a third country.
Some 900 people were reported to be under sentence of death, many held continuously in shackles. No executions were known to have taken place during the year.
AI country visits
AI delegates visited Thailand in April/May, May/June, July, and in November/December.
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