World Bulletin / News Desk
The arrest of two paramilitary rangers for the violent murder of three children in Thailand's Muslim south has done little to quell skepticism among local villagers, many of whom suspect authorities of involvement in the killing.
Police said this week that the arrests confirm that the deaths were caused by a desire for “personal revenge,” and not linked to a separatist insurgency that has been plaguing the region for over 100 years.
“Time and again, the officials have been using this line that the state is not behind the killings in the region. But in this instance, the case is so politically charged that they thought they had to do something, and this something was producing a suspect,” Don Pathan, a local expert on the southern insurgency, told the Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
On February 3, Jehmu Maman, his pregnant wife, and their three sons - aged 6, 9 and 11 years old - were returning home from evening prayers at Parukapaeroh mosque in Narathiwat, one of three Muslim-dominated provinces in the predominantly Buddhist country's South, but just as they were about to enter their home gunmen hidden in nearby trees opened fire with automatic weapons.
Maman’s wife screamed at him to flee, but on returning after the shooting had stopped he discovered his three children and wife lying in pools of blood - the boys dead, his wife badly injured.
A month after the incident, Maming Binhama, 21, and Sakuera Chesae, 25, were arrested by the provincial police and confessed to having fired on Maman and his family.
Police say they are looking for a third suspect, also a paramilitary ranger.
In a press conference soon after the arrests, Narathiwat Police Commander Pattanawut Angkanawin said the attack “had nothing to do with the on-going insurgency.” He said that one of the assailants was convinced that Maman was behind the murder of his brother and sister in law - the brother a witness against Maman in a judicial case linked to the insurgency.
Even though a military agency in charge of Thailand's internal security then emphasized that just because the suspects were paramilitary rangers it did not mean that the army was involved in the attack, it did little to quell skepticism.
In its Friday editorial, The Nation newspaper said that the official denial followed a dubious pattern in the country's deep south: "almost all violent attacks are automatically blamed on the insurgents."
“Few local residents believe the authorities’ version, saying the government has never been honest with them and that past wrongdoings by security officials have gone unpunished,” the paper added.
In previous cases, it has often been discovered after such denials that military personnel or rangers were involved in assassinations of Muslim villagers or religious leaders suspected of being sympathetic to the insurgency.
Despite a years-long campaign to “win hearts and minds” of Muslims villagers, most maintain a deep distrust of Thai officials, some believing that death squads operate to take out those they see as evading the law.
“There is a pattern where Muslims who have been acquitted in judicial cases linked to the insurgency were killed soon afterwards," Pathan told AA. "The strategy of the authorities is to distance themselves as much as possible from these cases, by saying they (the deaths) are purely a personal issue and nothing more.”
In an apparent response to the murder of the three children, insurgents launched a series of violent attacks in the South, shooting a female bank clerk and burning her body and killing a 67-year-old monk and three members of a family who were giving him alms - money, clothes, and food to gain Buddhist merit.
Conflict in Thiland's three southernmost provinces – Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat - has been going on for over a century, although the latest disturbances date back to 2004. Siam – the name of Thailand before 1939 – seized the area - which was then a Malay Sultanate – in 1907 following an Anglo-Siamese treaty, but after more than half a century of peace the area erupted into civil war in the 1960s when the Thai government tried to control education in the region’s Islamic schools.
In the last 10 years alone, the insurgency has claimed 6,000 lives and left 10,700 people injured, according to Deep South Watch, a Pattani-based NGO.Last Mod: 08 Mart 2014, 11:26