Thailand: Police raid human rights forum to arrest southern nomad

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    National Human Rights Commissioners talk to a plainclothes police officer at the forum (Photo courtesy: Suracha Bunpiam's Facebook account)

    At a seminar held by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand, police officers attempted to arrest an ethnic tribesman without an arrest warrant.

    On Thursday, 25 August 2016, Suracha Bunpiam, a Spring News senior journalist, posted on his Facebook account that five police officers, four of them plainclothes officers, raided a public forum hosted by the NHRC in the southern province of Songkhla to arrest Poy (no surname), a 27-year-old ‘Mani’ tribesman from Satun Province. The officers accused him of being a stateless person travelling outside his local area without permission.

    According to Suracha’s post, the police showed up at the forum without a prior notice or arrest warrant. However, after human rights commissioners talked to the police, the authorities left the forum without any arrest.

    The NHRC’s forum aimed to reflect upon various local problems in the south of Thailand including effects from coal-fired power plants, marine resource mismanagement and ethnic minority issues. Poy was invited to the forum as a guest speaker to share the experiences and problems of Mani nomads.

    A participant of the seminar, whose name was withheld by the original source, told Suracha that he was shocked by the authorities’ presence since local officials often bring Mani nomads outside their local area in order to promote tourism.

    “Officials often present the story and identity of the Minnan people to promote local tourism and they never get arrested. But this time, they could have been arrested just because they didn’t have ID cards,” said the participant.

    The Minnan are an ethnic minority, with a population greater than 300, living in various provinces of southern Thailand including Satun, Phatthalung and Trang. They are facing a shortage of farmland and a lack of fundamental welfare since they do not have Thai citizenship status.

    Source: Prachatai