Thai Army Fuels South Unrest

Thai Army Fuels South Unrest

IslamOnline.net & News Agencies

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Impunity of Thai soldiers in the Muslim south is blamed for fueling unrest and anger in the violence-ravaged region. (Reuters)

BANA,
Thailand — Sixteen-year-old Muktar was walking to a local football
match in the Muslim-majority south when Thai soldiers shot him in the
head, kicked him into a ditch and left him to die.

Three weeks later, he is now breathing through a tube in his neck.

The gunshot had entered his skull and blown away both eyes.

Two cotton pads now cover
the spots his deformed face where his eyes once were, soaking up the
tears which still, somehow, emerge.

“I feel so much anger
towards the soldiers because I don’t know why they did this,” Muktar
told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, July 7.

“I want them to be shot like they shot me, and prosecuted.”

Two months after the
shooting, Muktar now spends his days using his feet to navigate the
floorboards in his corrugated iron-framed home, with brain damage which
makes him feel disoriented and wet his bed.

His parents received only a
third of the four million baht (120,000 dollars) they sought from the
government. A promised apology from the soldier never came.

“If the government had more justice we would receive more care from them,” Muktar’s father Jaema said.

The southern provinces of
Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, an independent Muslim sultanate until
annexed officially a century ago, have been ravaged by an armed
conflict since 2004, leaving more than 2,800 people dead.

Poverty and meager economic development in the Muslim south are blamed as one of the factors fuelling the unrest.

Impunity

Experts say impunity of Thai soldiers in the Muslim south is fueling unrest and anger in the violence-ravaged region.

“Impunity has always been
the root cause of this kind of alienation and anger,” said Sunai
Phasuk, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“All that’s important for the radicalization and recruitment of insurgents.”

Before the incident,
Muktar’s village of Bana had been largely safe, but the day after the
shooting, insurgents burned down the local school in the village.

“Residents feel that
they’ve been physically abused by the government so they suddenly turn
a blind eye to whatever insurgents want to do,” Sunai said.

Outrage in the south worsened after a Muslim imam died in the custody of the Thai army in March.

According to an official autopsy, the imam’s body had nine cracked ribs, and an inquiry is underway.

Last month, another imam was shot dead as he walked between a mosque and his nearby home.

The imam’s wife Tuantimoh
said her neighbors suspect soldiers shot him dead because a car was
seen entering a nearby military base shortly after the shooting.

“I don’t trust the military anymore. I want more justice,” Tuantimoh told AFP. “Why don’t they try to find some suspects?”

The Thai military denies soldiers were involved, but this does little to reassure Muslim residents.

“I cannot trust the soldiers now,” one 73-year-old man in Yala told AFP.

“Sometimes they arrest good people who haven’t done anything,” added shopkeeper Asma, 22.

Experts say the conflict will continue until justice prevails in the south.

“With impunity it’s a
vicious circle — people see things starting to fall into place but
before you can end impunity there’s a new case. Just as trust starts to
be built, it collapses.”

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