"The action is torturing the villagers who have been hoping for a better life after a new government was formed recently," a spokesman for the fleeing Thai Muslims told the Bernama news agency on Friday, December 15.
The Muslim escapees, grouping nine men and 11 women, aged between two and 55, crossed the Sungai Golok river into Malaysia on Thursday night.
They complained by harassment and night raids by the military for no apparent reason.
"They trespassed into our homes and arrested whoever they suspected as terrorists without checking," said the spokesman, who was accompanied by his wife and three children during their fleeing.
"They took several members of my family and we do not know where they are now."
Last year, 131 Thai Muslims fled South Thailand for Malaysia to flee the ongoing violence in the region.
Thai Muslims, who make up five percent of the predominantly Buddhist kingdom's population, have long complained of heavy-handed practices by the military in the South.
They have also suffered from discrimination in jobs, education and business opportunities.
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are the only Muslim-majority provinces in Thailand and were an independent Muslim sultanate until annexed officially a century ago.
A female escapee said her husband has been arrested by the army a month ago and she had never heard from him since.
"Since then, my family slept under the house in the dark for fear that the army might come again," said the housewife, who gave her first name as Yah.
The group's spokesman said people were being discriminately arrested by the military.
"To my knowledge, they have arrested nine villagers on suspicion of being terrorists when they are in fact ordinary village people who are not at all involved in any anti-government activities," he said.
Only two of them had been freed while the others were still being detained, he said, adding that he decided to flee the South for Malaysia to seek a safe and better life for his family.
Thai Army and Foreign Ministry spokesmen said they were not aware of the fleeing of Thai Muslims.
But a Thai army spokesman said that the fleeing of the Muslim families might have been caused by a security campaign in the region to end daily attacks there.
"We have recently launched a blanket campaign to stop daily violence in four to five districts in the Muslim south," Colonel Acra Tiprote told Reuters.
"Searches have been made at road-stop checkpoints and suspects' houses, in which we have rounded up around 40 people," he added.
But a senior police officer said that the fleeing of the Muslim group was part of what he said rebel attempts to discredit Thailand's new government.
The government was appointed after a Sept. 19 coup by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the first Muslim to head the Thai Army.Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16