Five continue to be held over South security

Students are taken from their apartments in Ramkhamhaeng area. (Wartani Facebook)

The National Council for Peace and Order has detained five men for questioning for information related to security in the three southern border provinces, NCPO spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree said on Monday.

Col Winthai said the five were among 14 people “invited” for questioning after a search of Ramkhamhaeng area last week.

Of them, five — Tanmichi Totayong, Muftadin Salae, Amry Ha, Nuraman Abu and Usman Kadenghayi  — had been kept in military custody for further questioning while the rest had been released.

The five were not students, but authorities had grounds to believe that they probably had important information which might be useful for security operations, both in the three southernmost provinces and elsewhere.

Col Winthai said the five would be detained under the security-related laws. At this stage, they were not been found to have committed any wrongdoing.

The five would be treated according to the law, he added.

Col Sirichan Ngathong, a deputy NCPO spokeswoman, said that army chief Gen Chalermchai Sittisart, as NCPO secretary-general, placed emphasis on security related to the royal funeral and people travelling to pay respects to the late king in Bangkok.

The NCPO had carried out this work through the government’s centre for the follow-up of situation.

Since Oct 16, the government has restructured this centre to improve its efficiency while the NCPO set up a peace-keeping command to specially oversee Sanam Luang, the Grand Palace and surrounding areas.

The peace-keeping command, which is run by the peace-keeping force of the 1st Army, is also responsible for managing traffic and making arrangements for people to enter the area to pay tribute to His Majesty the King.

As for the dissemination of false information on social media while the country was still grief-stricken, Gen Chalermchai, had instructed officials concerned to advise people to exercise discretion.

Legal action would be taken against those found to be sources of false information, Col Sirichan said.

The NCPO’s briefing was in response to news reports last week on the arrests of more than 40 Ramkhamhaeng University students from the southernmost provinces.

Some were later released while others were fined for having in possession kratom leaves.

Members of the Students of Southern Border Provinces  (PNYS) group told Thai media 44 students, of whom eight were female, had been arrested on Oct 10-12.

The officials told them they might have been involved in planning car bomb attacks to mark the 12th anniversary of the Tak Bai incident.

The students claimed more than 100 policemen and soldiers stormed the students’ apartments in Ramkhamhaeng area and acted without respect for human rights during the arrests.

“They threw smoke bombs into the rooms, used rude language and put guns to the students’ heads to force them to lie down. Several were injured and assets in the room were damaged,” said Sulhan Beeing, chairman of the PNYS. 

The Federation of Patanian Students and Youth (PerMas) issued a statement later seeking an immediate release of the students, saying it reflected a negative attitude of the Thai state towards Patani people.

The Tak Bai incident took place in Tak Bai district, Narathiwat province, on Oct 25, 2004. Some 1,500 people gathered in front of a police station in Tak Bai to protest the detention of six men. Several hours into the protest, the crowd attempted to cross the police barrier into the station. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, and the crowd responded by throwing rocks. Police fired into the air and then into the crowd at head height, killing seven.

Almost 1,300 protesters were detained at the scene. They were ordered to strip to the waist, lie on their stomachs, and crawl to nearby trucks that would transport them to another site. Footage taken by journalists confirmed allegations that many protesters were kicked and beaten with sticks even after they complied with orders to lie on the ground.

The detainees were then stacked atop one another in trucks and transported to Inkayut Army Camp in Pattani province. The drive took five hours, and by the time the trucks arrived at the destination, 78 detainees had died from suffocation or organ collapse.

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