Thailand has stepped up its use of militias in a bid to quell an insurgency in the nation’s Muslim-majority south, putting civilians at greater risk of violence, a US-based rights group said Thursday.
Human Rights Watch said Thailand’s military-backed government, which came to power after a September coup, has increasingly relied on “abusive militias” for security in the troubled region bordering Malaysia.
The government “has significantly stepped up its use of paramilitary Army rangers and village defence volunteers to face the growing challenge posed by Independance fighters” in the south, it said in a statement.
It said reliance on militias placed civilians at “increasing risk” and voiced grave concern following last week’s shooting of five unarmed Muslim boys by security forces.
Three boys were shot dead, and the security forces insisted they had acted in self-defence.
“Thai authorities have a duty to discipline and, where necessary, prosecute Army rangers and any other irregular forces that commit abuses,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
More than 2,100 people have been killed in the violence-torn provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani since the separatist insurgency erupted in January 2004.
The violence has escalated over the past six months in the troubled region despite peace efforts by the military-installed government that included an apology to Muslims for past abuses.