EDITORIAL: BANGKOK POST- Muslim sweep a disgrace

In the wake of a series of bomb incidents in Bangkok and Nonthaburi last month that were blamed on Muslim suspects, the police have come up with a new “intelligence” mission that appears to constitute both outright discrimination and pure prejudice against a minority group of Thai youth.

The Special Branch Bureau has ordered universities to gather information on Muslim students and their activities and report it back to them.

The police’s intelligence mission reflects security agencies’ typical and negative stereotyping of Muslims as prime suspects for any violent incidents which take place outside the Malay-Muslim majority provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala. In essence, it’s no different to placing all Muslim students on its criminal suspect watch list. This operation is outrageous and must not be tolerated.

Citing security concerns, the police circulated the order dated Sept 9 to many campuses. It asked them to report on the number of Muslim students enrolled and provide details about their sects and hometowns. Additionally, universities have also been asked to report on any associations and clubs run by Muslim students and give the names of group leaders, numbers of participants and goals of their movements.

This move has sparked outrage from the Muslim Students Federation of Thailand which on Wednesday petitioned a parliamentary committee to push for the revocation of the order. They said it is a violation of Muslim students’ rights as well as a threat against them.


The Sheikhul Islam Office also planned to call on the national police chief to stop the bureau from “digging up” information from the campuses, according to BBC Thai.

Despite growing criticism, both Pol Lt Gen Sarawut Karnpanich, commissioner of the Special Branch Bureau, and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha have defended this operation, saying it is a normal process in producing the national security database and does not constitute a rights violation.

Their claims are not justified. Putting any group of people on a state surveillance programme without evidence or specific information about their possible involvement in violent incidents or crime should not be accepted as a normal process by authorities.

The operation appears to have been launched based on the negative perception that state agencies hold against Muslim people in and from the restive South where the prolonged ethnic and religious conflict has developed into a Muslim separatist movement.


Such stereotyping of Muslims invites abuse of power by authorities. For instance, it will give security officials leeway to justify the arrest of “Muslim suspects” without producing proof of wrongdoing. This was apparent in a joint police-military operation that rounded up 50 men in the Ramkhamhaeng area of Bangkok, mostly students, in October 2016. The authorities later alleged that 14 of them were involved in a car bomb plot even though there was no evidence found except a box loaded with budu, a southern-style fish sauce.

This time, the intelligence mission is a blanket measure that places all Muslim students on a watch list based on an embedded bias against the minority group. Given that this intelligence work singles out Muslim youth, it is unacceptable discrimination that breaches the constitution.

In addition to the possibility that it will create division among Muslim students and others in campuses, this move may further sow seeds of mistrust and resentment among the Muslim population against the state. The police must abort this intelligence operation.




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