Human Rights Watch Urges Thai Govt to Investigate Deep South Bombing

Human Rights Watch Urges Thai Govt to Investigate Deep South Bombing

BANGKOK, LELEMUKU.COM - A bomb blast that injured dozens of people and killed a police officer at a housing compound for police in Thailand’s Deep South should be investigated as a possible “war crime,” Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in condemning the attack.

The massive explosion from a bomb-rigged pickup on Tuesday afternoon targeted a compound where police officers and their families live in Mueang Narathiwat, a district of Narathiwat province, authorities said.

Some children, including a 1-year-old, were among the injured. A police captain was the lone fatality in the attack by suspected separatist rebels.

“The unlawful bombing of an apartment building crowded with police officers and their families appeared aimed at causing the greatest possible loss of civilian life,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Those responsible should be investigated for apparent war crimes.”

According to the New York-based rights watchdog group, international laws of war protect civilians and civilian structures from attack, and are applicable to Thailand’s southern border region where an insurgency has dragged on for decades.

“Thai provincial police in the south do not engage in counterinsurgency operations and are civilians, not combatants, under the laws of war. Deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians are prohibited, and if carried out with criminal intent are war crimes,” Human Rights Watch said in calling for those who plan, order and carry out such attacks to be brought to justice.

On Wednesday, investigators updated the number of people injured to 45, including three children, from an original report of 31.

A member of Deep South civil society network said the children and at least 13 women were among the injured.

“This is an unlawful act, breeching international humanitarian laws,” Rukchart Suwan told BenarNews Wednesday. “[We] condemn the attack.”

Elsewhere, a leader of Barisan Revolusi Nasional, the most powerful of armed separatist groups in the border region, declined Wednesday to comment about the attack while the leader of another insurgent group, the Patani United Liberation Organization, said it was not involved.

“PULO does not have a role in the attack at all,” Kasturi Mahkota told BenarNews in a text message.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha meanwhile called for the speedy arrest of the perpetrators.

“The prime minister expressed concerns and extended condolences to the family of the dead … and directed officials to speed up investigation and bring the attackers to justice as soon as possible,” a spokesman said.

In addition, a Thai government panel involved in Deep South peace talks spoke out against the attack.

“[We] condemn the mastermind on the violence – be it any group or persons – because it was deliberate at civilian and soft targets, a violation of human dignity, human rights and humanitarian principle,” the panel said in a statement Wednesday.

“The peace dialogue underlines the intent to promote and support peaceful solutions in a civilized way according to international norms and principles.”

Government officials and BRN began Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations in early 2020 – following years of talks between the government and MARA Patani, an umbrella group that brought together Deep South insurgent groups, including BRN.

Ongoing investigation

Authorities spent Wednesday cleaning up the bomb site filled with the charred wreckage of cars and motorcycles along with debris from the apartment building.

A southern army deputy commander who visited the site on Wednesday said investigators had made some progress in identifying and bringing the attackers to justice.

“The bomb-rigged pickup truck was not stolen and [we] have to investigate the connection of the owner and the attacker,” Maj. Gen. Pramote Prom-in, told reporters. “Anyway, the culprits were clearly insurgents.”   

On Tuesday, police detained and questioned a Pattani man, according to a security officer who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The officer did not elaborate about whether the man was a suspect in the attack in Narathiwat.

Pattani police questioned an employee of a used-car dealership who brokered the pickup truck’s sale to identify the owner.

Investigators also examined closed-circuit videos to track the route of at least two perpetrators who fled the scene on a motorcycle.

Since a separatist insurgency reignited in the Deep South in January 2004, at least 7,344 people have been killed and 13,641 injured in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to data updated through March 2022 by Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

The region along Thailand’s border with Malaysia encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces, and four districts of Songkhla province. (Mariyam Ahmad/ Matahari Ismai | BenarNews)

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