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In the early morning of 9 October 2013, the southern border provinces of Pattani and Yala were jolted by the sounds of bombs planted in 26 ATMs. This was among very few attacks on economic targets in the on-going conflict in this part of the country.[1] Sulaiman (pseudonym) was arrested as one of the suspects involved in these bombings, allegedly responsible for 7 attacks with IEDs (improvised explosive devices), causing injury to 6 civilians and financial losses of about 1.7 million baht. He was accused of attempted murder, and eventually sentenced to 33 years and 4 months imprisonment. After serving nine years and six months of his sentence in Songkhla Prison, Sulaiman was released on 4 May 2023.[2]

However, on 2 May 2023, two days before his release, the local prosecutor of Songkhla filed a case to the court in order to put Sulaiman under special preventive measures against recommitting the offences. This action was taken based on a new law proclaimed on 24 October 2022 and coming into force on 23 January 2023, called the Act on Preventive Measures to Prevent the Recommission of Sexually-Related Offences or those that use Violence B.E. 2565.[3] The law aims at controlling the behaviour of ex-criminals who have committed serious offences due to psychological abnormality, such as serial murders, rapes or abduction for ransom, because releasing such people in the midst of ordinary society might cause great anxiety. Such preventive measures are also taken in other countries including Australia, the UK and France. In Thailand, among around 200,000 prisoners who are released every year, only 1,700 or less than 1 percent meet the criteria of this law.[4]

Although Sulaiman denied all charges against him,[5] the offences allegedly committed by him might be regarded as serious. On 3 June 2023, he was summoned to Songkhla Provincial Court to be questioned, informed that 8 measures would be imposed on him.[6] The question is: is it appropriate to apply this law to suspects in security cases in the southern border provinces where armed conflict continues to this day? This should be examined in political as well as legal aspects.

If Sulaiman is a serial murderer or rapist living in an ordinary area, imposition of such measures upon him might be justifiable for the sake of society’s peace of mind. However, he was accused in security cases in an area where several special security laws have already been enforced following the armed conflict that has continued for nearly twenty years. This area has been put under both or either one of Martial Law and Emergency Decree.[7] According to lawyers from the Muslim Attorney Centre, an NGO providing legal aid on a pro bono basis to suspects in security cases in the region, the detention of all suspects in security cases in the region have been conducted under Martial Law, under which security officers can arrest anyone based on ‘suspicion’ for seven days in any place. During this period, the army prepares a warrant from the court needed for a maximum 30-days-long detention under the Emergency Decree. Therefore, following these security laws, the military can detain ‘suspects’ without any evidence for 37 days. Both the special laws exempt security officers from responsibility for any damages caused by them when performing their duties. In other words, the state authorities, and the military in particular, can wield far more power and do far more when compared to measures stipulated in the new law. For instance, so called cordon-and-search operations (usually with tens of military cars and hundreds of armed officers) for the detention of security-case suspects can be conducted any time, and operations at two or three o’clock in the night are not uncommon. Suspects or prisoners in security cases, even after they are released, have to report to local military units. They are often blacklisted and meet problems when leaving the country. In addition, this area itself is highly securitised. On top of thousands of regular soldiers, there are far more semi-trained paramilitaries (rangers, called thahan phran in Thai), as well as Volunteer Defence Corps (called Or Sor in Thai) under the Ministry of Interior, and Village Development and Self Defence Volunteers of villagers (Chor Ror Bor) in every village. Fully armed soldiers or paramilitaries regularly patrol the streets. Moreover, in only three provinces and four districts, the number of checkpoints is almost two thousand, and the number of CCTVs is even bigger.  In short, the state has put the entire region under strict military surveillance, both physically and legally.          

Besides the legal aspects, applying the preventive measures to prisoners in security cases can also be problematic in political terms. Lawyers at the Muslim Attorney Centre do not see that their clients (suspects in security cases) committed crimes due to abnormalities in their psychological condition. These clients are regarded as political prisoners because they were arrested for the use of violence for political purposes in the context of an armed conflict between the Thai state and Malay-Muslim insurgents. One of the political leaders of BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional, the National Revolutionary Front), the largest insurgent group in the region, said that for the freedom fighters of Patani, there are only three ends: syahid (martyrdom, killed in a battle with the enemy), imprisonment or hijrah (moving to other places, particularly to Malaysia).[8] Therefore, for BRN, there is nothing against the imprisonment of their fighters. However, the Muslim Attorney Centre expressed a concern that imposing preventive measures based on the new law might be seen as a repetition of punishment by the state, which could lead to radicalisation of the insurgents.[9] Since 2020, as many as 76 insurgents have died in extrajudicial killings following cordon-and-search operations.[10] The number is alarming, indicating that insurgents would rather be killed than surrender to the authorities, because they have no trust in the justice system of the state. Imposing preventive measures on ex-prisoners of security cases will not improve the situation, but maybe worsen it.

Sulaiman is the first security-case ex-prisoner to have preventive measures applied to him. On 4 October 2023, the court will deliver the verdict. The decision must be made carefully, considering the legal and political aspects. There should be clear guidelines in the application of this law to security-case-related ex-prisoners, by examining the real motivations for their use of violence. Otherwise, it would affect the peace process to solve the two-decades-long conflict. The newly appointed Justice Minister, Thawee Sodsong of the Prachachat Party, can play an important role, as he was the Secretary General of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) under the Yingluck government, and currently leads the most influential local party in the southern border provinces. Now that the new Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has met Anwar Ibrahim, his Malaysian counterpart, in New York, the peace dialogue process with the Malaysian government as the facilitator will soon be resumed.[11] Peace building is not just a political enterprise, but must be accompanied by justice. Certainly almost all security cases involve the use of violence, but the authorities should be cautious in applying preventive measures to ex-prisoners involved in the insurgency.


[1] The conflict area of the southern border provinces includes Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and four adjacent districts of Songkhla Provinces. This area is called ‘Patani’ (with one ‘t’) by Malay nationalists. For the news report of this incident, see https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/373808/bombs-at-26-atms-in-deep-south

[2] Legal records of the Muslim Attorney Centre Thailand (MAC), Pattani.

[3] So far no English translation of this law is available. For the original text in Thai, see https://www.ratchakitcha.soc.go.th/DATA/PDF/2565/A/066/T_0006.PDF

[4] For detailed explanations on this law, see ปกป้อง ศรีสนิท “มีอะไรในกฎหมาย : กฎหมายป้องกันการกระทำความผิดซ้ำ”, 14 May 2023 https://www.the101.world/public-protection-from-serious-offenders/

[5] Personal interview with lawyers from the Muslim Attorney Centre, 15 September 2023.

[6] The law allows the court to impose all or part of the following measures upon prisoners released after serious offences, i.e. (1) prohibition from approaching victims; (2) prohibition from conducting any activities liable to lead to a repetition of the crime; (3) prohibition from entering designated areas; (4) prohibition leaving the country without permission from the court; (5) prohibition form causing danger to the community where he lives; (6) order to stay in a designated place; (7) order to stay in a designated rehabilitation facility; (8) order to follow orders of officers or caretakers of rehabilitation facilities; (9) order to report himself to probation officers or to be visited by probation officers; (10) order to be put under medical measures or to see doctors to be examined; (11) order to join a rehabilitation programme or other programmes designated by probation officers or the courts; (12) ordered to report changes of work or workplace to probation officers; (13) order to wear electronic monitoring (EM) devices. The prosecutor demanded that 7 measures should be imposed on Sulaiman , i.e. 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11-13. Interview with lawyers from the Muslim Attorney Centre, September 2023.   

[7] For the English translation of Martial Law, see http://thailawforum.com/laws/Martial%20Law.pdf and for Emergency Decree, see http://web.krisdika.go.th/data/document/ext810/810259_0001.pdf

[8] Interview with a BRN political leader, Terengganu, Malaysia, 2015.

[9] In a Facebook live streaming programme, Pintu Keadilan, by the Muslim Attorney Centre, 9 June 2023. https://web.facebook.com/macmuslimfoundation/videos/681623590644354 (in Patani Malay)

[10] The number is obtained from Butler’s Club, a group of local activists gathering donations for families of victims in extra-judicial killings in the region. 24 September 2023.

[11] https://www.nationthailand.com/thailand/politics/40031268?fbclid=IwAR0zbIyDMg1UhtA7FprJJdfweWFIvhxwyEaKguMCTmMvMjgZK3K9Or6FzKo

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