A day after martial law was lifted in Thailand by the National Council for Peace and Order, military officers reportedly arrested 22 students of the Princess of Naradhiwas University in conflict-torn Narathiwat province.
The Federation of Patani Students and Youth (PerMAS) issued a statement calling for the immediate release of those arrested and for the junta to remove the ‘continuing’ martial law in Patani, Yala and Narathiwat, commonly referred to as the Muslim-majority “deep south”.
The southern provinces have been wrecked by insurgency, poverty and heavy militarisation over the past decade. The conflict has affected the lives of many civilians who are often accused by government troops of sympathizing with or supporting the rebel force.
Meanwhile, Free Voice, a media program coordinated by Patani students, informed Global Voices that the students were arrested in a military crackdown at several student dormitories in Hospital Narathiwat Rajnakharin, Kampong Tako’, Polytenic College, and Lorong Narakul.
According to Free Voice, students and young people have been expressing their concerns for the safety of the detainees. Many have made attempts to meet with and appeal to army officers for their release. It added that 11 of the 20 students are detained by the authorities at Julaporn military camp, Kaotanyong military camp and Pileng (military) camp.
When asked about the reaction of the public, Free Voice said the community had received support from Bangkok and even neighboring countries:
We see a small but growing movement for justice as far as Aceh, Indonesia and Malaysia. We hope to see more calling for the freedom of our fellow students.
Many residents, particularly the Muslim community, feel socially and economically ostracised by the other provinces. The human rights violations and intimidations faced by the community, coupled with this recent detention, may influence the process of the upcoming peace dialogue between the insurgents and the junta.