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Back Activities Alert Archive Urgent Alert: Get Malaysia and UNHCR to Grant Refugee Status to Persecuted Thai Muslims

Urgent Alert: Get Malaysia and UNHCR to Grant Refugee Status to Persecuted Thai Muslims

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There have been many tragic incidents occurring in the South of Thailand lately leading to an exodus of refugees.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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5 October 2005

Urgent Alert: Get Malaysia and UNHCR to Grant Refugee Status to Persecuted Thai Muslims

1. Background

There have been many tragic incidents occurring in the South of Thailand lately. The area in question, known as the Kingdom of Patani before Thai-rule, is inhabited primarily by ethnic Malays who are Muslims. These Muslims have suffered much under the government of Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Just a few weeks from now will mark the first anniversary of the Tak Bai massacre in which 78 fasting Muslim demonstrators were brutally beaten and subsequently suffocated an died in police custordy during the month of Ramadan. The situation is rapidly deteriorating even further with violence and repression on an almost daily basis.

Towards the end of August this year, the area of Narathiwat saw the fleeing of 131 individuals into the Malaysian state of Kelantan. On 4 October 2005, Prime Minister Thaksin blamed “insurgents” for raising fear amongst the people, which he claimed eventually led to a state of panic in the villages of Narathiwat. According to Thaksin, as recorded by Bangkok Post, the flight of 131 people was a set-up engineered by the insurgents. He even condemned activists, who had lodged a petition with the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur, of being villains and rebels. He warned the UN High Commission for Refugees not to get involved or they would “become a pawn in the hands of the insurgents'.

The reality is that the flight of these individuals to Malaysia is due mainly to the fear of the military that had been sent in droves to quell “terrorist activities”. Unfortunately the army is seen to side with the Thais against the Malays in the South. The assassination of 3 Islamic leaders and preachers from villages in Narathiwat exacerbated the already stressful situation amongst the people. In Narathiwat, reports of the army entering houses illegally at night and carrying-off men abound. The head of the Muslim Affairs Committee of Narathiwat, Mr Abdul Rahman Abdul Samad, confirmed a report by the Nation newspaper that people are now stopping the army from entering their villages because of the high level of distrust held towards it. The Nation also outlined that the army are carrying a list of names of individuals alleged to have terrorist links. It is reported that half of these come from Narathiwat, which has also contributed towards the mass exodus of the people from these villages.

AFP reported the reason for the migration of these individuals as due to the deep fear they had towards the military who killed 17 Muslim men including the Imam of the villages on the 29 August, just days before the military showed up in their own villages. When asked about the AFP report by the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Kantati Supamongkon, denied it outright. In this meeting to discuss the fate of the refugees, it was agreed that the refugees would not be sent back to Thailand; however they will not be granted refugee status in Malaysia as Malaysia do not recognize political refugees. They are now attempting to get the status from the UNHCR office in Malaysia. Thaksin's outburst yesterday clearly shows his strong and hardline approach will not change for the months to come. The Muslims in the South of Thailand face a daunting future ahead.

2. Suggested Action

Contact the UN High Commission for Refugees requesting it to grant refugee status to the Thai Muslims who have fled persecution and sought refuge in Malaysia. A sample letter is below for your convenience.

Mr Antonio Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Switzerland.

Tel. +41 22 739 8111 (automatic switchboard).

[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]

Mr Antonio Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Switzerland


Dear Mr Guterres

Re: Thai Refugees in Malaysia

I am writing to you regarding the situation of Thai refugees in Malaysia.

It has come to my attention that 131 ethnic-Malay Thais recently fled Thailand seeking refuge in Malaysia due to the continued persecution they were suffering at the hands of the Thai army. Malaysia has refused to grant these individuals refugee status as it does not recognize political refugees.

The persecution of the Muslims in South Thailand by the Thai government has been well documented by human rights groups and international organizations. This month marks the first anniversary of the Tak Bai massacre in which 78 peaceful Muslim protestors died excruciating deaths at the hands of the Thai authorities. It has been reported that these 131 villagers from Narathiwat fled due to the intense fear instilled in them by the Thai army who have been raiding homes in the middle of the night and carrying away innocent men. Just days before the army showed up in Narathiwat, it killed 17 Muslims, including the local Imam, of a nearby village.

For Malaysia to refuse to grant these people refugee status and protect them accordingly falls foul of its obligations under international law, primarily the Refugee Convention. I urge you not to succumb to the threats of Prime Minister Thaksin and take immediate action to redress this very grave problem by granting them refugee status.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding the immediate action you have taken in this matter.

Yours sincerely


[Your signature]

[Your name]


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Holy Qur'an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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