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Thailand faces 'high risk of mass killings'

Southeast Asian nation moves up in Early Warning Project's ranking of mass killings and genocide

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Published: December 03, 2021 04:40 AM GMT

Updated: December 03, 2021 04:47 AM GMT

Thailand faces 'high risk of mass killings'

A riot police officer fires a weapon as protesters gather during a demonstration in Bangkok on Nov. 14 after a court ruled that speeches by protest leaders calling for royal reforms amounted to a bid to overthrow the Thai monarchy. (Photo: AFP)

Thailand has been declared a high-risk nation when it comes to the possibility of mass killings taking place, according to a foreign group that monitors political and religious conflicts worldwide. 

In the latest annual report of the US-based Early Warning Project that has ranked 162 countries on the likelihood that a mass killing or genocide could occur, the Southeast Asian nation has been moved up to the 19th place from 42nd last year.

The placing means that Thailand is now considered a high-risk country, largely because of the authorities’ increasingly violent crackdowns on peaceful student protesters demanding political reforms in a nation ruled by a military-allied repressive government that seized power in a coup in 2014.

In addition, an ongoing Islamist separatist insurgency in the largely Buddhist country’s Muslim-majority southernmost provinces, which has claimed well over 7,000 lives since 2004, remains a constant source of potential larger-scale bloodshed, the NGO says.  

“According to our model, the factors accounting most for Thailand’s high-risk estimate are its lack of freedom of movement for [people], large population size, history of mass killings, and the presence of battle-related deaths (conflict between state security forces and the southern insurgency),” says the Early Warning Project, an initiative of the US Holocaust Museum.

“Our statistical model estimates that there is a 4.5 percent, or approximately 1 in 22, chance of a new mass killing beginning in Thailand in 2021 or 2022.”

No police or military officer has been held to account for the deaths, which Thai authorities blamed on shadowy militants 

Security forces have engaged in several massacres of peaceful demonstrators in Bangkok in the past few decades, including 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010.

During the most recent massacre in 2010, military sharpshooters and armed soldiers killed dozens of unarmed anti-government protesters, including women, in central Bangkok.

Several protesters were gunned down inside a Buddhist temple where they had sought refuge from the killings on the streets in the commercial heart of Bangkok, which the military had declared a free-fire zone.

No police or military officer has been held to account for the deaths, which Thai authorities blamed on shadowy militants whose identity, or even existence, they have yet to prove.

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In recent months there have been growing fears that riot police occasionally shoot not only rubber bullets but also live ammunition at young demonstrators after several protesters have been shot and badly wounded under unclear circumstances.

One 15-year-old boy died recently after lingering in a coma for weeks following an incident when he was shot in the back of the head during a street protest at night.

Police said the boy had been shot by a fellow protester, but protesters produced evidence online showing a police officer shooting live bullets in the direction of the teenager.

At top place in the rankings is Pakistan with a likelihood of 15.2 percent, followed by India with 14.4 percent

Last month a UCA News reporter witnessed a young protester being severely injured as he was shot in the stomach with live ammunition from the direction of riot police officers outside an upmarket shopping mall during a street protest in central Bangkok. The protester posed no threat to the officers when he was shot.

Another two protesters were shot and injured the same day, according to evidence posted online by demonstrators.   

In Southeast Asia, only Myanmar has been ranked higher in the NGO’s risk assessment — two spots above Thailand at 17th place with a 5.3 percent chance of a mass killing taking place.

At top place in the rankings is Pakistan with a likelihood of 15.2 percent, followed by India with 14.4 percent.   

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