Tak Bai

Tak Bai

Thai Court Exonerates Security Officials in Controversial Tak Bai Incident

SONGKHLA – In a verdict that has sparked disbelief and disappointment among victims’ families, a Thai court on Friday found no misconduct by security officials in the Tak Bai incident, which resulted in the death of 85 Thai Muslims five years ago. The court concluded that army and police officials acted within the confines of the law during the 2004 tragedy, according to Bernama news agency.

The court determined that the officials were performing their duties under challenging circumstances, particularly when they decided to transport over 1,000 detainees from the Tak Bai mosque to the Ingkayuthaborihaan Army Camp in Pattani for security reasons. This decision came after a demonstration involving more than 1,500 people at the Tak Bai Police Station turned violent, leading to the use of water cannons, tear gas, and live ammunition by the police.

A total of 78 individuals were found dead in the trucks used for transportation, a situation exacerbated by the detainees being piled atop one another for the journey to the camp. This occurred during the Muslim fasting month, adding to the gravity of the tragedy.

The incident has been cited by locals and human rights organizations as a catalyst for escalating violence in the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, where more than 3,500 people have died since the resurgence of the separatist campaign in January 2004.

The court’s justification for the transportation method included security concerns near the Thaksin Ratchaniwet Palace and the Malaysian border, as well as obstructions like felled trees and spikes on the road. Despite video footage showing uniformed individuals causing harm to demonstrators, the court found no evidence of orders from superiors, suggesting the actions might have been individual responses to the situation.

Furthermore, officials were absolved of any wrongdoing under the Emergency Decree, which protects them from civil, criminal, or disciplinary liabilities while performing their duties.

The ruling left families of the victims, many of whom traveled hundreds of kilometers to attend the proceedings, in a state of shock and sadness. Zainah Saleme, leader of a women’s group advocating for justice for Tak Bai victims, expressed deep disappointment, criticizing the court for overlooking the victims’ suffering and the families’ grief.

Compensation by the Thai government, amounting to Bt42 million, was distributed to the families of the Tak Bai victims by the administration of former military-appointed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who also issued an apology for the incident and dropped charges against those involved in the demonstration. However, for many like Hamiah Ahmad and Muhammad Hassan, who lost loved ones in the tragedy, the court’s decision represents a grave injustice, leaving them to question the absence of accountability for the loss of life and suffering endured.