SUMMARY OF TESTIMONY:24 Deputy Village Chief of Ban Batey Passay and construction worker, Mr Waeharem Guwaegama, was abducted on his way back home from work on May 26, 2006. He was a father of three. Wae-harem was long-suspected by soldiers of playing a role in the local network of separatist insurgents; he had faced much pressure from a local army unit before his disappearance. His uncle, Kordae (unknown surname), reported to HRW that the soldiers accused Wae-harem of being active in expanding the insurgent network around the Bukit sub-district. What the soldiers did not understand was that everyone respected Wae-harem because he was a good deputy village chief, not for a fictitious involvement in illegal matters. Wae-harem had his own construction business and hired many people from the village, particularly unemployed teenagers, to work with him. He also allowed them to takes fruit from his own orchard to sell in the market to earn extra money. This village depended very much on Wae-harem, but soldiers saw Wae-harem differently. The victim’s uncle and wife said that a month before his disappearance, soldiers from the local army unit raided the village and arrested Wae-harem together with five other villagers under a cordon and search operation (which is common practice in the context of the Emergency Decree in place in the Deep South). Waeharem told his family that he was detained in Bon Thong district, Pattani province, for 12 days. They interrogated him, after which they released him without charge. But Wae-harem heard the soldiers say that the men had been detained on allegations of bombing markets, assisting the training of terrorists, and providing a safe-haven for insurgents and their weapons. The Guwaegama family seemed especially suspicious because their large rubber tree orchard was perfect for hiding weapons. In addition, Wae-harem had suffered death threats from soldiers stationed near Bukit Pracha Upatham School and was told that his name was on the blacklist. Although Wae-harem had been previously accused of being a member of a terrorist organization called Jemaah Islamiya, he had never been issued an arrest warrant; there was never any concrete evidence against him. On the morning of his disappearance, Wae-harem was searched at a military checkpoint on his way to Buketamong village (place of work) at around 7 a.m. Later, when he met his colleague, Ma-ae (unknown surname), Wae-harem explained what had happened; apparently, the soldier was not searching for firearms but for hidden money. At around 5 p.m., Wae-harem started making his way back home by motorcycle, but first stopped at a tea shop not far from his house. It is in front of this tea-shop, between 5.20 and 5.30 p.m., that villagers saw four or five men forcing the victim inside a green Mutsubishi pickup truck and driving away. He has not been seen again. It was later found out that someone in the tea shop had asked details about his dayto-day whereabouts – witnesses say this person was in military dress. The victim’s uncle said the family came to know of Wae-harem’s disappearance from other villagers within 10 minutes of it occurring. Straight away, Kordae rushed to all the army checkpoints and army units in the area, but he never found a clue about where his nephew could be. The army units at every checkpoint denied arresting him. The relatives also reported the disappearance to the Village Headman, who was a friend and coworker of Wae-harem. The headman helped search for his deputy at every local army checkpoint.
While JPF has documented this case firsthand, details here also draw extensively on the Human Rights Watch report, ‘It Was Like Suddenly My Son No Longer Existed’ published in 2007, available at: www.hrw.org/asia/thailand 24
Published on Jun 6, 2012