BANGKOK — The firearms allegedly confiscated from suspected militants during a raid in the insurgency-plagued province of Pattani were not used in any previous shooting attacks in the region, forensic tests revealed today.
The guns were found by security officers who conducted a raid on To Chud village on 25 March that left four civilians dead. Authorities said the raid was an effort to arrest Islamic insurgents who were meeting to plot attacks in the region, and that the suspects fired at security officers first.
The entrance to To Chud village in Pattani province, 26 March 2015.
A high-ranking officer at the Office of Police Forensic Science told Khaosod today that none of the confiscated weapons were used in any previous attacks connected to the insurgency, which has rattled the region since 2004.
"Based on inspections by the Forensic Integrated Database System, we discovered that none of the firearms have ever been used in any previous incident," said the officer, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case.
The forensic department maintains detailed records of bullets and other evidence gathered from the sites of attacks in the area, the officer said.
The results of the forensic tests are likely to deepen suspicions among local residents and relatives of the four men who have accused authorities of "planting" the weapons on bodies of the victims to falsely implicate them.
Police initially told media that two of the four men killed in the raid belonged to RKK, one of several militant groups behind the Islamic insurgency, but later said that none of the deceased had any pre-existing records or arrest warrants related to the separatist violence.
According to relatives of the victims and community leaders, two of the men were Fatoni University students in their twenties, one was a known drug addict with no links to the insurgency, and the fourth victim was a 32-year-old man preparing to assist Thai authorities as a Village Defense volunteer after two of his relatives were killed by militants.
Twenty-two men were also arrested at the scene and taken to army camps for interrogation. Sixteen were released several days later without charges.
Following public demands for an impartial review of the incident, Thai authorities appointed a 15-member panel to investigate the raid. The panel includes representatives from the military, local administration, Central Islamic Council of Thailand, and Fatoni University, among other agencies. The panel’s report is expected on 3 April.
Police also say seven soldiers will be charged with murder for their role in the raid, though the men failed to report to hear their charges yesterday. Police said the suspects postponed their meeting "indefinitely," but declined to comment further.
More than 6,200 people have been killed since secessionist violence broke out in the three southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat in early 2004, according to data compiled by rights groups. In an effort to quell the insurgency, which aims to create an independent Islamic state, approximately 60,000 security officers are stationed in the region.
Although suspected insurgent attacks are responsible for the majority of casualties, human rights activists have also documented cases of excessive brutality and foul play by security officers in the region.
In August, a volunteer ranger admitted to killing a local 14-year-old boy and planting a firearm on his body to implicate him as an insurgent.