Thai police order for intel on Muslim students sparks outrage

Thai Muslim students and faculties of Princess of Naradhiwas University attend a university sponsored forum presenting various political party candidates in Thailand’s southern province of Narathiwat. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2019

Thai police order for intel on Muslim students sparks outrage

  • Rights groups have long accused the state of heavy-handed sweeps of the Malay-Muslim population
  • Muslims make up Thailand’s second largest religious group, with the majority residing in its three southernmost states

BANGKOK: A Thai Muslim student group Wednesday called for police to drop an order requesting universities to provide “intelligence” on Muslim students and their activities in the Buddhist-majority state.
Muslims make up Thailand’s second largest religious group, with the majority residing in its three southernmost states, which since 2004 have been in the grip of a conflict between Malay-Muslim separatist rebels and Thai authorities.
Rights groups have long accused the state of heavy-handed sweeps of the majority Malay-Muslim population in that region — which is under martial law.
Last week the Special Branch Bureau issued a nationwide order to universities to provide “intelligence” on Muslim students and their activities in school, police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen told AFP Tuesday, citing “security” concerns.
The news sparked immediate outrage from the community, and the Muslim Students Federation of Thailand on Wednesday called for parliament to “cancel” the request.
The Special Branch’s order “is also a form of discrimination that breaches the constitution,” president Ashraf Awae said, speaking outside parliament.
Such “groundless accusations... could create divisions among the Muslim students and others in the university and society,” he said.
He added the federation had already heard of police requesting information on Muslim student groups from at least three major universities.
Junta chief-turned-prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday defended the Special Branch, and denied creating a “database” would be a violation of people’s rights.
“We can’t arrest anyone if they don’t do anything wrong,” he told reporters.
Prayut’s backing shows an “alarming trend of growing Islamophobia in Thailand,” said Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk.
“This is state-sanctioned discrimination,” he told AFP, adding that the Thai constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination toward different religions and ethnic groups.
“It could feed into radicalization of Muslims in the deep south and worsen the conflict,” Sunai said.
The ex-general had masterminded a coup in 2014, leading a five-year junta regime before elections in March formally installed him as a civilian premier thanks to a new constitution tilted to the military.
Under Prayut’s tenure as junta head, police had rounded up at least 50 Thai Muslims, mostly university students, in a dragnet operation in October 2016 that authorities justified was necessary to stop a suspected car bomb plot.


Philippine police chief resigns amid drug allegations

In this Oct. 3, 2019, file photo, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde gestures as he testifies at the resumption of the Senate probe on the release of hundreds of convicts under the shortened serving of their sentence for good behavior, in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Updated 39 min 35 sec ago

Philippine police chief resigns amid drug allegations

  • Albayalde resigned about three weeks before his scheduled retirement on Nov. 8

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine national police chief has resigned after he faced allegations in a Senate hearing that he intervened as a provincial police chief in 2013 to prevent his officers from being prosecuted for allegedly selling a huge quantity of seized drugs.
Gen. Oscar Albayalde said Monday his decision relinquishing his post was accepted by Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano over the weekend but insisted on his innocence, saying he has never been criminally or administratively charged for the alleged irregularity. Albayalde resigned about three weeks before his scheduled retirement on Nov. 8.
The allegations against Albayalde were the latest dark cloud to loom over the national police force, which has largely been enforcing President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of mostly petty drug suspects dead.