World Bulletin/News Desk
A Thai court sentenced to death five suspected Muslim rebels convicted of killing four soldiers, prompting Human Rights Watch to accuse the government of applying "double standards" in the turbulent south.
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but parts of the south, in particular the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, are majority Muslim.
Resistance against the Buddhist annexation in the region has claimed more than 6,000 lives since 2004 following the resurgence of a Muslim rebel movement.
The Pattani Provincial Court sentenced the five men to death after accusing them guilty of killing four soldiers who were on patrol and seriously wounding two others in a roadside shooting in Pattani in 2012.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand at Human Rights Watch, said the sentence drew attention to double standards in the state's law enforcement.
"Ten years on and there has been no successful prosecution of Thai security forces who may be guilty of rights violations," said Sunai.
"Violence does not come from the separatists alone. The security forces have their own share of responsibility."
Thailand's military, who seized power May 22, have expressed a desire to restart a peace dialogue with rebel leaders – an initiative first launched by the overthrown civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra.
Progress, however, seems slow as no date for a meeting has been set, months after the junta’s announcement.
Officials said that the new dialogue would be held secretly, contrary to those under Yingluck’s government which were held in full view of the press.
The region was an independent sultanate until the 19th century and was only formally annexed by Buddhist-majority Siam (Thailand's previous name) under the terms of a 1909 Anglo Siamese agreement.
In the 1950s, a policy of forced assimilation provoked deep tensions between the central state and local Muslims, with the situation deteriorating in the 1960s when Thai leader Sarit Thanarat tried to control education in Islamic schools – triggering the formation of a rebellion.
Last Mod: 27 Kasım 2014, 11:50