The Severe State of Emergency in the Deep South has been extended for another month, despite demands from civil society groups for the new government to end the State of Emergency, which has continued in force in the three Deep South provinces for the past 18 years.
An order extending the Severe State of Emergency in Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat was published yesterday (18 September) in the Royal Gazette following a Cabinet meeting earlier in the morning. The order states that the Severe State of Emergency will be extended for another month as there are still some “violent incidents” and because insurgents are still using violence “to harm officials and innocent civilians.”
Another order was also published in the Royal Gazette lifting the Severe State of Emergency in Pattani’s Kapho District because the situation in the area has been resolved.
Other districts have previously had the Severe State of Emergency lifted: Narathiwat’s Si Sakhon, Su-ngai Kolok, Waeng and Sukhirin districts; Pattani’s Yaring, Mayo, Mai Kaen and Mae Lan districts; and Yala’s Betong and Kabang districts.
Chai Wacharong, spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister, said in a press conference following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting (18 September) that security measures implemented in the Deep South will become more relaxed and the government will be prioritizing people’s rights and freedoms, but he cannot provide more detail because national security agencies do not want him to disclose the information before they do so themselves, likely within the next few days.
“Let’s say it’s going to get better than before, but how much better I have to have permission to be able to tell you all here. I can only tell you that it’s heading in a better direction,” Chai said.
Romadon Panjor, academic-turned-Move Forward Party MP, noted that there are several other national security measures in place in the Deep South, including Martial Law, which is still in place in Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, and these provide the military with unchecked authority.
Although Romadon said that the Cabinet’s decision to extend the Severe State of Emergency is a move in a positive direction that should be supported, he said that it remains to be seen how security units in the area will respond to the new direction. He also proposed an end to military operations so that there will not be an obstacle to reducing hostility in the area.
The Severe State of Emergency has been in force in the three Deep South provinces for the past 18 years. It was first declared on 17 July 2005 and has been repeatedly extended every three months.
Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, 35 human rights organizations issued a statement calling on the cabinet not to extend the Severe State of Emergency, noting that the Severe State of Emergency has led to human rights violations over the past 18 years, goes against international conventions, and does not end the conflict or lead to sustainable development. Each extension has also gone unchecked by parliament and has been issued by the Cabinet based on proposals from the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) without consideration of whether it was necessary or proportional.
The statement said that the Severe State of Emergency in the Deep South allows national security authorities to detain a person without charging them and in a closed location for 30 days. Such detention is made based on orders from the executive branch regardless of whether the person has been accused of a crime, while a court order cannot be obtained to revoke arrest or detention warrants. Independent agencies have also not regularly inspected these locations, while victims of violations cannot press charges against the authorities, which grants impunity to offocials and prevents victims of being compensated for damage.
The 35 organizations call on the government, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), not to extend the Severe State of Emergency in the Deep South, and to declare its commitment to international agreements at the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting to restore the international community’s trust in the rule of law in Thailand.