In Thailand, separatist insurgents used anti-personnel mines to mutilate rubber plant workers and seriously disturb the daily lives of people in the southern border provinces, Human Rights Watch said today. They are Muslims of Malay ethnicity affiliated with the separatist movement Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).
On July 2, 2018, Suthin Haewkhuntod, a Thai Buddhist latex extractor in the district of Krong Pinang (in Yala Province) lost his foot after treading on a mine supposedly laid by the insurgents in the rubber plantation in which he worked. Two other Thai Buddhist latex extractors, Wipawan Plodkaenthong and Chutipon Namwong, were severely injured by land mines, in Yaha District in Yala Province on 28 June and in Muang District on 2 July.
“Laying anti-personnel mines on the rubber plantations and in the paths used by villagers is cruel, beyond words,” Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said “Rebel groups should stop using these illegal weapons and free up landmines they have already laid”.
Insurgents have claimed that Buddhists of Thai ethnicity should not live in the southern provinces. They have often used land mines that have been activated by the victims in the last decade, according to Landmine Monitor. The mines activated by the victims are specifically prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty. From the first case reported in 2010, Human Rights Watch found that the BRN insurgents frequently used explosives activated by pressure plates or tripwires to kill and injure people who worked in rubber and fruit plantations.
International humanitarian law, also known as war laws, prohibits attacks on civilians or attacks that fail to discriminate between combatants and civilians. Since the escalation of rebel attacks from January 2004, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous violations of the laws of war. Most of the victims are civilians of Buddhist populations of Thai ethnic and Malay ethnic Muslims in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla. There would be no basis for rebel claims that attacks on Thai Buddhist civilians are legal because they are part of the Thai Buddhist state or that Islamic law, as they interpret it, allows such attacks.
The most visible impact of rebel attacks is the flight of Thai ethnic Buddhists from communities where they have lived alongside ethnic Malay Muslims for generations. Their plantations have been abandoned. Victim of land mines Suthin Haewkhuntod is the latest ethnic Thai Buddhist latex in her village.
Although the insurgents have suffered serious setbacks from government security attacks, they maintain a presence in hundreds of villages of Muslims of Malay ethnicity. The BRN rebels indicate abusive and heavy tactics by government security forces as justification for their acts of violence and as a recruitment tactic to obtain new members.
In the southern provinces of the border, the security forces of the Thai government and the associated militias have carried out reprisal attacks and other abuses in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said. Government forces benefit from a deep-rooted culture of impunity for human rights violations in the southern provinces
“The Thai government should respond to the use of landmines and other brutal attacks on civilians by supporting the rule of law, putting an end to security forces’ abuses and addressing long-standing grievances in the Malay Muslim ethnic community” Adams said “If the government continues to protect its troops from criminal responsibility, it will only fuel the flames of violence of insurgents”.