Bangkok Post – Tak Bai massacre criminal cases to be filed

9 former security officials to face charges just months before 20-year statute of limitations runs out

Lawyers representing the families of victims of the 2004 Tak Bai massacre will file criminal charges on Thursday against nine former security officials over the deaths and injuries of dozens of protesters, just months before the expiration of the case.

Adilan Ali-Ishoh, a lawyer with the Muslim Attorney Centre Foundation, said on Tuesday that families of the victims had all signed an agreement to allow the foundation to represent them in a court fight against the authorities.

The case will be filed at the Narathiwat Provincial Court. The nine former officials will be accused under the Criminal Code of unlawful detention, murder and malfeasance.

Mr Adilan said those accused included top southern army officers in charge of the crackdown plan and operations on the ground, while others included key police and Interior Ministry officers.

The lawyers are making their move as the 20-year statute of limitations on the incident will end in October this year. No legal action can be pursued after that time. (Story continues below)

The Tak Bai incident began when 1,500 protesters converged in front of the Tak Bai police station in Narathiwat calling for the release of six detainees on Oct 25, 2004. Security authorities used force to break up the rally, killing seven people at the scene. Another 78 were crushed to death or suffocated when they were transported on military lorries to the Ingkhayutthaborihan army camp in Nong Chik district of Pattani province, 140 kilometres away.

The tragedy occurred when Thaksin Shinawatra was prime minister. It has been seen as a major contributor to an upsurge in violence in the three Muslim-majority southern border provinces.

Thaksin in 2022 apologised for the tragedy but said he had not been informed at the time that the army had taken control of the protest. The army chief then was Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who went on to become a deputy premier in the previous government and now leads the coalition Palang Pracharath Party.

Mr Adilan said he did not expect an easy court battle but vowed to pursue justice for the victims and their families.

“I would like to thank all the people who continue to fight alongside us for justice. The road ahead will not be smooth but they stand ready for that,” he said at a meeting in Narathiwat on Monday. He also thanked all the lawyers and volunteers who went through mountains of evidence to prepare the case.

Mr Adilan told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday that the results of an independent investigation led by then-ombudsman Pichet Sunthornpipit would be among the main evidence used to substantiate the accusations against the nine accused.

“The court case would not be time-consuming if the authorities identified in the report admit the result,” he said, but he doubted that would happen.

Mr Pichet was appointed by Thaksin to look into the massacre. The report concluded that then-Fourth Army Region Commander Lt Gen Pisan Wattanawongkiri, his deputy Lt Gen Sinchai Nutsathit and then-Fifth Infantry Division Commander Maj Gen Chalermchai Wirunpeth among authorities who did not properly perform their duties at the time of the rally.

The three were later removed from the positions. (Story continues below)

Human rights advocates have also been demanding action from authorities to bring the offenders to justice, in addition to the financial compensation some victims and their family members received from the government.

“However, Amnesty International found a concerning lack of holistic reparations for the human rights violations the officers committed, as the government only focused on monetary compensation without enabling access to justice for the victims and their family members who received the compensation,” Amnesty International said in October last year on the 19th anniversary of the crackdown.

SOURCE: Bangkokpost.com : Thailand   (go to source)
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