Anchana Heemmina, the testimony
Deep south Thailand is a conflicted area where armed groups of ethnic Malay muslims have waged an extended struggle for freedom from Thai rule. The area covers the present-day southernmost Thai provinces of Pattani (Patani), Yala, Narathiwat and four districts in Songkhla province.
Violence occurs from both Thai security officials and the insurgency group. Over 6,000 people died and more than 10,000 were injured between 2004 and 2014 in an ethnic separatist insurgency. The target both the Thai Buddhist minority and local moderate muslims or muslims who support the government. Some of victims were killed by security sector operation.
Duayjai Group was established on 23 January 2010. The group is based in Songkhla province in the south of Thailand. The group was founded by my sister Pattama and me, Anchana Heemmina, after Pattama’s husband was imprisoned with national security-related charges. Pattama’s husband was later acquitted. After that, Pattama and I have begun to meet other families of detainees in the region. Duayjai Group found that people in villages were suffering from loopholes in the judicial process such as the language difference (people in the deep south use Malay while the official language is Thai), lack of knowledge on the justice system and judicial process, etc. Many of the detainees were later proven to be innocent and were acquitted.
My team and I are working with detainees who are prosecuted with the national security law and their families. We work to increase their access to justice despite the differences in nationality, religion, language and knowledge. We work against tortures under the Martial Law and Emergency decree which allows detention of longer than 30 days without accusation. We also work on protecting youths from being exploited by both the military and the insurgency and ensuring that they are lawfully protected. This is because under the Martial Law, Malay muslim youths can be detained in a normal prison despite the international code that protects them. Detained youths have had their rights violated during detention. For example, they have been imprisoned alone with lights on at all time, or imprisoned in a stable
Our work is aimed to stop the vicious violent cycle that is caused by the government’s injustice.
.The first time we were threatened by the officials was when we released a statement on torture. We were threatened that we would be sued for defamation.
The second time, we represented some villagers to complain against the military’s corruption. The families of perpetrator who is soldier were visited and threatened me at my homes.
The third time, we were demanding compensation from the authority but the military forced us to retract our Facebook post and threatened to sue us.
The fourth time, after we complained about the military’s excessive use of force. Three cars full of armed soldiers visited us 4 to 5 times.
There have been many times that the military has contacted us through other NGOs to stop us from reporting human rights issues in conferences. We have been asked to stop reporting on sensitive issues such as murdering of monks and women which cannot be easily defined as ordinary crimes or insurgency-related crimes.
Most recently, on 5 November 2015, after releasing an article on the military’s threats, there has been a smear campaign against us on a public channel on the messaging app Line.
Regardless of how many times our work has been threatened. It will never discourage me from working on protecting other who are under similar threats and promoting peace.
English edit and write by Tewson