THAILAND: Alleged forced disappearance of man in Narathiwat
June 9, 2006
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
9 June 2006
UA-186-2006: THAILAND: Alleged forced disappearance of man in Narathiwat
THAILAND: Forced disappearance; illegal detention; threat to life
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information about the alleged forced disappearance of a man in Narathiwat Province, southern Thailand. On May 29, Wae-halem Guwaegama allegedly disappeared nearby his house, in the vicinity of an army checkpoint. His relatives have lodged a complaint with the army but received no reply. The AHRC is greatly concerned for his safety and requests immediate action to locate his whereabouts and protect the villagers in his area from further incidents.
?lt;br />---Please be informed that for security reasons only incomplete details of the case can be given publicly---
According to the information available to the AHRC, 42-year-old Wae-halem Guwaegama left his house in Bata Pasey, Cho-ai Rong District, Narathiwat at around 7am on 29 May 2006, by motorcycle. He passed a military checkpoint near the Kampong Baru teashop, and was searched before being allowed to proceed. Then he went to work at a construction site at nearby Bukey Tamong village. Later in the morning a military official reportedly came to the teashop and asked after Wae-halem.
Wae-halem returned to the teashop around 5pm, on his way home. There he talked with some senior villagers and left at around 5:20pm, saying that he wanted to go home and pray. After leaving the teashop he disappeared, although it is only about 700 metres from his home. His motorcycle also has not been found.
According to witnesses, there was a temporary army checkpoint set up between the teashop and Wae-halem's house, and some military personnel were allegedly seen taking someone away.
On June 5 relatives of the victim lodged complaints over the disappearance with a number of agencies, including the Commander of the Fourth Army Region, the newly-established Independent Commission on Justice and Civil Liberties for the Southern Border Provinces, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and the Lawyers Council of Thailand. The next day local human rights defenders went to the Fourth Army Region command and also the office of the Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Command to raise the case. But they were told that the army does not have any record of having the alleged victim in custody. No formal acknowledgment of the complaint has been given to the family.
Wae-halem was previously listed by the authorities as a suspected insurgent. He was required to attend an army camp as part of the state's "Reeducation/Peace-building Programme". However, he had never been arrested or charged for involvement in any anti-government violence. He had been a deputy village head, but lost the position after being on the government list and going for "reeducation".
His entire community is now engulfed in fear. Most male villagers are worried that they could be the next victims, especially those who had previously enrolled in the "Reeducation/Peace-Building Programme". Some have fled from the village. The village and neighboring areas are reported to be under constant surveillance by army intelligence. Any visit by an outsider is immediately recorded, and in the evening time the villagers are questioned about who has visited and why.
Since 2004, the conflict and attendant human rights abuses in the south of Thailand have steadily intensified. In its recent final report to the government, the National Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to resolve the violence in the south, put most of the blame on heavy-handed government policies and the growing militarisation of the region (see example news article: Disarm troops, NRC says). ?lt;br />
The National Reconciliation Commission says that 23 local men aged 20-50 have gone missing in the southern border provinces of Thailand since 2002. Ten of them lived in Pattani Province, seven in Narathiwat and six in Yala. However, the true numbers of disappeared are believed to be far higher. No reliable estimates are available. Due to the lack of effective avenues for complaint and overwhelming fear, families of victims have not generally come forward (see AS-133-2006). The army commander recently acknowledged that lists of alleged insurgents are being used in the south "to settle scores", and called for them to be reviewed (see AS-085-2006). The abduction of prominent human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit by police in Bangkok too was linked to allegations of torture and disappearances in the south. A provincial governor also has recently reportedly called for citizens to be paid rewards for shooting and killing suspected insurgents. ?lt;br />
Please write to the Caretaker Minister of Justice and Commander of the Fourth Army Region asking for immediate investigations into this alleged forced disappearance and protection for other persons in the area, especially possible witnesses.
THAILAND: Alleged forced disappearance of Mr. Wae-halem Guwaegama in Cho-ai Rong District, Narathiwat Province on 29 May 2006
Name of alleged victim: Wae-halem Guwaegama, 42-years-old, working in construction industry, residing at Moo 6, Ban Bata Pansey, Tambon Bukit, Amphur Cho-ai Rong, Narathiwat
Identity of alleged perpetrators: Unidentified army personnel
Date of incident: 29 May 2006
Place of incident: On street leading to victim's house in Ban Bata Pansey
I am writing to you to express grave concern at the alleged forced disappearance of Mr. Wae-halem Guwaegama on 29 May 2006, reportedly at the hands of military personnel stationed nearby his house.
According to the information I have been given, Mr. Wae-halem left his house in Bata Pasey, Cho-ai Rong District, Narathiwat at around 7am on 29 May 2006, by motorcycle. He passed a military checkpoint near the Kampong Baru teashop, and was searched before being allowed to proceed. Then he went to work at a construction site at nearby Bukey Tamong village. Later in the morning a military official reportedly came to the teashop and asked after Mr. Wae-halem.
Mr. Wae-halem returned to the teashop around 5pm, on his way home. There he talked with some senior villagers and left at around 5:20pm, saying that he wanted to go home and pray. After leaving the teashop he disappeared, although it is only about 700 metres from his home. His motorcycle also has not been found.
According to witnesses, there was a temporary army checkpoint set up between the teashop and Mr. Wae-halem's house, and some military personnel were allegedly seen taking someone away.
On June 5 and 6 relatives and local human rights defenders lodged complaints over the disappearance with a number of government and statutory independent agencies. But they have so far reportedly been told that the army does not have any record of keeping the alleged victim in custody. No formal acknowledgment has been given to the family of their complaints. ?lt;br />
I am informed that Mr. Wae-halem's disappearance has caused much anxiety in his village and some men have fled, afraid that they will also become victims.
You will be aware that the final report of the National Reconciliation Commission, which was recently tabled by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, pointed to the heavy-handed government policies and deep mistrust and fear in the southern border region as the key cause for the continued violence there. More incidents such as this reported abduction will only continue to worsen the situation dramatically. Although the commission has recorded only some 23 disappearances in the region since 2002, I am informed that the number is likely to be far higher, which is deeply troubling.
The persistent allegations of forced abductions, killings and torture in the south are greatly damaging Thailand's international reputation. They are among the main reasons that Thailand did not obtain a seat on the new UN Human Rights Council. I urge you to take measures to reverse the direction in which the south is going, and improve your country's human rights record and thereby boost its international standing. ?lt;br />
With regards to the alleged abduction of Mr. Wae-halem, please investigate it without delay, and guarantee the safety and protection of persons in the area where he was allegedly abducted, especially possible witnesses. Please account for his whereabouts. Where there is evidence that he was forcibly disappeared, please ensure that all suspects are investigated, charged and prosecuted, and not merely than some compensation is paid to the affected family, as has been the case up to now.
More broadly, please act to implement the recommendations of the National Reconciliation Commission without delay. I note that the Commander of the Royal Thai Army has approved of these recommendations, so there should be no reason to hesitate in ensuring that they are put into effect. Please also establish an agency with the sole purpose to receive prima facie complaints of forced disappearances and issue families with documents that will allow them to continue with their lives rather than suffer from day-to-day obstacles caused by missing family members in addition to the emotional anguish arising from their loss.
In this respect, I remind you of the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee to the government of Thailand, with reference to your country's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
"The Committee is concerned at the persistent allegations of serious human rights violations, including widespread instances of extrajudicial killings and ill-treatment by the police and members of armed forces... The Committee further notes with concern that this situation reflects a lack of effective remedies available to victims of human rights violations, which is incompatible with article 2, paragraph 3, of the Covenant (arts. 2, 6, 7). The State party [Thailand] should conduct full and impartial investigations into these and such other events and should, depending on the findings of the investigations, institute proceedings against the perpetrators. The State party should also ensure that victims and their families, including the relatives of missing and disappeared persons, receive adequate redress... [CCPR/CO/84/THA, 8 July 2005, para. 10]
I look forward to your swift and effective action.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTER TO:
1. Pol. Gen. Chidchai Wanasatidya
Caretaker Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
2. Lt-Gen. Ongkorn Thongprasom
Commander, Fourth Army Region
Director, Southern Border Province Peace-Building Command
Sirinthon Camp, Khaotoom
Yarang, Pattani 94160
Tel: +66 73 262 598
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:
1. Pol. Lt. Col. Dr Thaksin Shinawatra
Caretaker Prime Minister
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
2. ACM Kongsak Wantana
Caretaker Minister of Interior
Office of the Ministry of Interior
Tel: +662 224-6320/ 6341
Fax: +662 226 4371/ 222 8866
3. Pracha Terat
Narathiwat Provincial Office
A. Muang, Narathiwat 96000
Tel: +66 73 514 320 ext. 76027
Fax: +66 73 514 320 ext. 76029
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
4. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Tel: +662 2219 2980
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ?lt;br />
5. Mr. Stephen J. Toope
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Attn: Tanya Smith
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 917 9176
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: WORKING GROUP ON ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)