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sriracha john

100,000 People Missing In Thailand Over The Past Few Years

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'Huge number of unidentified bodies' in Thailand

2006-01-23

The Straits Times

There may be as many as 100,000 missing people in the records in Thailand accumulated over the past several years, celebrity forensic scientist Porntip Rojanasunan believes.

"I do not know the exact number. But just in our area, four provinces, every year we have around 300 unidentified bodies," said Dr Porntip, who is based at the Ministry of Justice's office in Nonthaburi on the outskirts of Bangkok.

"In Pattani, in only one year, there were 300," Dr Porntip said, adding that so far, she had received little political support or cooperation from the police in bringing modern forensic science techniques to crime investigation in the south.

In a project linked to the search for missing Muslim human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, Dr Porntip will soon start taking DNA samples from 300 bodies in one Chinese cemetery in Pattani.

Somchai was abducted in March 2004 and has never been found. One police officer accused of involvement in his abduction was sentenced to four years in prison this month, with three other officers acquitted.

In the absence of evidence that Somchai had been killed, the charges were minor, leading analysts to decry the probe as half-hearted.

But shortly after the trial, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said publicly that government officials had abducted the lawyer, and that he had been killed.

Dr Porntip explained in an interview: "Even if we know where the missing lawyer disappeared, we have no power to investigate.

"So we started with this project in southern Thailand and found that in Pattani alone, there were 300 unidentified remains in one year, 80 per cent homicides, and the police told the ministry almost all may be illegal Myanmar or Cambodian immigrants."

There were about 20 unidentified Muslim bodies in a different cemetery, she said, not including unidentified bodies buried after the Kru Se incident of April 2004 in which several local Muslims were killed in a clash with security forces.

But her investigation would start with the 300 in the Chinese cemetery.

Dr Porntip, who in 2004 was conferred the prestigious royal title Khunying, told The Straits Times that her work had been delayed by objections from the police, who had generally hampered efforts to bring proper case investigation methods to the troubled southern provinces.

Thailand's police regularly resort to extra-judicial killings, human rights watchdogs have long been saying.

Steeped in their male chauvinistic culture and jealously guarding their turf, top police officers have repeatedly gone public with their criticism of the celebrity forensic scientist, who has written books on her crime-busting exploits.

Dr Porntip said she agreed with assessments by international and local human rights observers of a "culture of impunity" among police and the authorities in Thailand.

She also agreed that proper investigations were not carried out on crimes in the southern provinces. While she had set up a unit in Pattani to investigate incidents in the south, it could only do so if the police asked it to.

In addition, her team lacked sufficient staff, which compounded the problem, she said.

"We cannot visit every crime scene. And in the south, we need well-trained people," she said. "In each case, only local police officers investigate, and only in big cases which make the front pages do the seniors help.

"Some of the government officers use powers in the wrong way, so they do not want a good team to look at the evidence."

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'Huge number of unidentified bodies' in Thailand

2006-01-23

The Straits Times

There may be as many as 100,000 missing people in the records in Thailand accumulated over the past several years, celebrity forensic scientist Porntip Rojanasunan believes.

Where are these corpse being kept?

I seriously doubt that Thailand has the mortuary facilties for such a number of bodies.

Unidentified bodies are usually buried, pending collection by the family and subsesquent cremation.

Is this the case here?

I represents a LOT of graves.

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Strange - 100,000 people are missing acc. to records, but then she starts talking about the bodies found. 300 here and 300 there cannot possibly make 100,000, even in a few years.

What records are those that show 100,000 missing? By Thai standards it's the size of a pretty big town.

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There may be as many as 100,000 missing people in the records in Thailand accumulated over the past several years, celebrity forensic scientist Porntip Rojanasunan believes.

Guess that's the estimated figur for the whole country.

Sorting out the trouble in South seems most important for everybody.

Way to go Pornthip!

Large part of missing bodies are propably due tsunami, and are kinda lost I think.

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I believe she was talking about missing persons, whether they are dead or not, is unknown.

She than elaborated on the corspes that ARE found, hundreds of whom are unindentified. No doubt many, many are never found or haven't yet, anyway, in unmarked graves... thrown in the ocean... or rivers.. etc.

Taking into account that 1 province had 300 in one year, multiplied by say 4 years (quote "over the past few years") multiplied by all the other provinces... it adds up to a lot. Whether it adds up to 100,000 or not, it is still a huge number.

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Sriracha John you're right. I could explain maybe 30% missing for one year, tsunami. This must be more than 20 years figure?

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It is not that difficult:

TL has aprox 75 (don't know the exact number) provinces

75 x 300 = 22 500

100 000 / 22 500 = about 4 years and 5 months

I think even a tenth of this would be quiete a lot.

:o

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UPDATE

Samak gives his word he'll order a fresh inquiry into 'disappeared'

PM Samak has given his word that he would order a fresh government inquiry into cases involving those who went missing as a result of the southern insurgency. He has also offered the victims' relatives a chance to file petitions seeking the truth behind their disappearances. Samak was reacting to a demand by the opposition Democrat party to come up with a panel or a centre to locate the missing since the start of the southern strife in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla. The demand was aired during the ongoing parliamentary debate on government policies on Wednesday. Samak said yesterday new investigations would certainly be launched, but not before he has looked into all the relevant information. "Tell them, or write to me or the government a letter. And the senders should not forget to sign their name," he said. According to the Democrats, about 30 people have disappeared in the past eight months in the insurgency-prone southern provinces. Some human rights groups, however, put the number at 100 or more. *still others put the number at 100,000...albeit over a longer period than 8 months as well as being nation-wide*

Continued here:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/23Feb2008_news07.php

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With all due respect to the esteemed pathologist, I believe the estimate is unfounded and hopefully, what we are reading is a statement out of context. In this case, perhaps the words are used for illustrative purposes and not to convey actual facts.

I am not saying that there may not be many undiscovered bodies related to the southern insurgency or to criminal activity in the border provinces. What I do hope people understand is that in a nation with a population of Thailand's size there will be a great number of bodies unclaimed and dumped etc. In the body count one must factor in naturally occurring unclaimed bodies. Every major city in the world has this problem usually related to the elderly, destitute or homeless where people die and drop where they are, sometimes going undiscovered for days if not weeks.

Within Thailand's 65 million+ population there is a sizeable segment of illegal immigrants estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.Due to circumstances, when these people die, the bodies are often left unclaimed because there is no family to claim them. If there is no visible physical injury, the expense of a post mortem is often forgone.

As well, Thailand's family structure has begun to break down. There are many people with no family contacts living in difficult circumstances. Combined with a large proportion of family units with limited means to pay for a proper funeral, it becomes inevitable that a body will go unclaimed and dumped. A classic example of this occurred in the early 90's. There was a body disposal problem due to all the unclaimed Aids victims. Families had either severed ties or did not want to become "contaminated" by contact with the corpse, so bodies were dumped.

In respect of a 100K disappearing due to the insurgency in less than 8 months, well, that's a bit over the top. As others have pointed out, you have to put the bodies somewhere. While mass graves can hold hundreds if not thousands, it would be hard to do that in the south where there is a population that would be vocal if there were graves. Thailand is not the Ukraine or Bosnia where such graves could be hushed up for years. And you couldn't have dumped the bodies in the rivers because bodies pop up after a few days.

I hope the crusading pathologist clarifies her comments because they undermine her obligation to conduct herself in a responsible manner.

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While mass graves can hold hundreds if not thousands, it would be hard to do that in the south where there is a population that would be vocal if there were graves.

this report from 2006

Thais to study mass graves in sectarian killings inquiry

Independent, The (London), May 31, 2006 by Jan McGirk in Bangkok

Hundreds of nameless bodies dumped at an ethnic Chinese cemetery in southern Thailand are to be dug up and examined in a grim reminder of the neglected chaos on this country's southern border.

After months of foot-dragging, officials have ordered a government foren-sics team to exhume 300 unmarked graves in Pattani province. Human-rights activists suspect that these unknown corpses might include suspected Muslim insurgents who were abducted and executed by government death squads.

Nearly 1,300 people have died in the 30 months since violence re- erupted in Thailand's impoverished deep south, home to some three million Muslims. The majority of these anonymous bodies turned up in Pattani, a former sultanate near the Malaysian frontier where a dormant separatist insurgency has reignited, but almost 200 more were tracked down in neighbouring Yala and Narathiwat provinces, where bloodshed is increasing. Kidnaps, bombs and beheadings are almost daily occurrences.

The governor of Pattani, Panu Athairat, insisted that 333 of the 435 unclaimed bodies found in early March belonged to migrant fishermen from Cambodia, Laos and Burma He claimed that around 100 bodies had simply washed ashore from passing trawlers. Authorities denied any link to a crackdown on Islamic insurgents in the three restive border provinces.

Mr Panu stressed: "Only 10 of the bodies were found to be Muslim workers from fishing trawlers, and were given to religious leaders for proper burials in Muslim graves."

But Dr Porntip Rojana-sunand, the Justice Ministry forensics chief, was sceptical: "Police believe they were illegal immigrant workers and 80 per cent of them were killed. I plan to perform DNA tests on those bodies."

Senator Kraisak Choonhavan, who last week called for an investigation of the graves, has documented alleged abductions and extrajudicial killings near the border. He said: "The families of the victims in the south feel they cannot go to the Government. It is too dangerous. Many people have been forcibly disappeared in the south and these atrocities must be investigated," he said. "It has at least been confirmed that* these notorious mass graves were found. Perhaps killings have been perpetrated on immigrant workers, as well."

When an overcrowded cemetery in Pattani sought permission to cremate unidentified corpses to free up burial plots, 300 unclaimed bodies came to light. Nearly all were male.

"This is very suspicious, given the campaign against the Muslim community," said Senator Kraisak. "We need to exhume and examine the bodies and determine whether deaths were caused by unnatural means. We must be allowed to find the cause - whether there are bullet holes in the skulls, or whatever."

He said the "intensified killings, and almost illogical violence" in the south has been kept out of the news by a political breakdown in Bangkok. Security officers responsible for the deaths of 85 Muslim protesters in October 2004 and 105 Islamic militants in April that year had gone unpunished, in fact most have been promoted.

After an eight-week break, the first thing on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's agenda last week was the violence in the south. More than 100 government schools in Narathiwat province are now closed because students and staff are too intimidated to attend. Schools have been targeted in shootings. One young teacher is in a coma after villagers held her hostage to swap for two locals arrested as insurgents. A senior army strategist estimated that about 100 of the 1,520 villages in the south were deeply infiltrated by militants.

"There was no real effort to bring ethnic Malays into the intelligence community when things were quiet for nearly a decade," a senior army intelligence officer told the Nation, a Bangkok daily. A new generation of Islamic separatists, mostly trained at religious schools, is asserting itself.

Most businesses are owned by wealthy Buddhists with roots outside the area, fuelling the resentment of local rubber tappers and fishermen. Barely 100 years ago, this distinct region was ruled by a sultan, and the pagodas of Bangkok seemed very remote indeed.

Copyright 2006 Independent Newspapers UK Limited

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

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Don't forget that on ONE SINGLE DIG, while looking for the remains of Somchai, the lawyer from the South who disappeared under Thaksin, Dr Pornthip and her team recovered 8 different bodies, or what remained of them, and got 8 confirmed individual human DNA samples, in one single spot!. That's a lot of dead bodies for ONE DIG. Most of us have no idea of what goes on here, no idea...

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It's amusing to see some posters here refute the claims of Thailand's leading forensic scientist.

One wonders where they get their in depth knowledge to condradict the informed claims of such an esteemed and respected person.

Read my post again. I am not denying that there are bodies related to crimes or the insurgency. What I am questioning is the number of 100,000. As per taxexile's post, the number in his post was a total of 300 of which some (many) were presumed to be suspicious and this was over a period of months. Don't you think that if there were 100,000+ murdered people, the friends and families of at least some of them would be vocal about it? You cannot easily hide 100,000 bodies in a small area in a period of 8 months. The decomposition would give rise to organic runoff and disease nodules. What I stated is that perhaps there was room for clarification and context.

Please bear in mind that a forensic pathologist is trained in the study of determining the cause and circumstances of death by means of the physical examination of the organism, tissue or body. In the past year, Dr. Porntip Rojanasunan has been straying away from forensic pathology into the arena of political discourse which is certainly her right. However, this is tainting her credibility. Was she speaking as a political activist or as a pathologist?

And to answer the question as to where I get the basis to make the last statement, the 1st time I was taught the requirement for neutrality was in Introduction to Forensic Sciences - 450. It was drummed into us that one must stick to the science and never allow personal political, religious or moral beliefs to interfere with one's work. It was reinforced in every other course I took because. Bias is one of the leading causes of assessment errors. It is why there are currently multiple judicial inquiries going on in the UK, Canada & USA because medical examiners and chief pathologists presumed guilt and didn't undertake thorough unbiased examinations. As a result, a great many convictions are now being thrown out or reviewed in those countries. I am certainly not questioning her skills or determination or right to question, but am pointing out that when one allows personal political views to drift into an assessment, it creates bias and this allows all results, no matter if accurate, to be questioned or even tossed out because they are presumed to be tainted. Sorry, but that is a cardinal rule in pathology.

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With all due respect to the esteemed pathologist, I believe the estimate is unfounded and hopefully, what we are reading is a statement out of context. In this case, perhaps the words are used for illustrative purposes and not to convey actual facts.

I am not saying that there may not be many undiscovered bodies related to the southern insurgency or to criminal activity in the border provinces. What I do hope people understand is that in a nation with a population of Thailand's size there will be a great number of bodies unclaimed and dumped etc. In the body count one must factor in naturally occurring unclaimed bodies. Every major city in the world has this problem usually related to the elderly, destitute or homeless where people die and drop where they are, sometimes going undiscovered for days if not weeks.

Within Thailand's 65 million+ population there is a sizeable segment of illegal immigrants estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.Due to circumstances, when these people die, the bodies are often left unclaimed because there is no family to claim them. If there is no visible physical injury, the expense of a post mortem is often forgone.

As well, Thailand's family structure has begun to break down. There are many people with no family contacts living in difficult circumstances. Combined with a large proportion of family units with limited means to pay for a proper funeral, it becomes inevitable that a body will go unclaimed and dumped. A classic example of this occurred in the early 90's. There was a body disposal problem due to all the unclaimed Aids victims. Families had either severed ties or did not want to become "contaminated" by contact with the corpse, so bodies were dumped.

In respect of a 100K disappearing due to the insurgency in less than 8 months, well, that's a bit over the top. As others have pointed out, you have to put the bodies somewhere. While mass graves can hold hundreds if not thousands, it would be hard to do that in the south where there is a population that would be vocal if there were graves. Thailand is not the Ukraine or Bosnia where such graves could be hushed up for years. And you couldn't have dumped the bodies in the rivers because bodies pop up after a few days.

I hope the crusading pathologist clarifies her comments because they undermine her obligation to conduct herself in a responsible manner.

With respect to your assertion that Thailand is not "Ukraine or Bosnia", I would respectfully suggest that the rule of law and order holds sway more strongly in these two examples for most of the time, than Thailand. Suggesting that mass graves are not hushed up in Thailand for years, you must either be extremely naive or biased (or both?). I'm not talking specifically about the South (although don't forget there are many large army bases there where it would be quite easy to bury/dump/burn large numbers of disappeared), and I don't think Dr Pornthip was either if you read the article, but explain if you will, how it was possible to dispose of the many bodies that were seen being trucked out of Bangkok in May 1992 and were never returned to relatives. The disappeared toll there was in the hundreds and I still remember the present Interior Minister standing up in Parliament when he was in Opposition and saying he was going to expose the site where the bodies were dumped (hinting at a location in Kanchanaburi), unless he got his way.

I and the relatives of those missing are still waiting for an answer. You'd think that now he is the Interior Minister he could come clean.

Like most others round here Geriatric, you're crusading too, so don't kid yourself any different. :o

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It's amusing to see some posters here refute the claims of Thailand's leading forensic scientist.

One wonders where they get their in depth knowledge to condradict the informed claims of such an esteemed and respected person.

Read my post again.

And it would behoove you to read the article again:

"'There may be as many as 100,000 missing people in the records in Thailand accumulated over the past several years, celebrity forensic scientist Porntip Rojanasunan believes. "I do not know the exact number. But just in our area, four provinces, every year we have around 300 unidentified bodies,' said Dr Porntip, who is based at the Ministry of Justice's office in Nonthaburi on the outskirts of Bangkok."

She says "there may be as many" and she is talking about ALL of Thailand over several years. She then uses four provinces in the south as recent examples for perspective. If you have been following the news over the last several years, and understand the astonishing rate of disappeared and murdered activists, migrants, business rivals, and extra-judicial rampages of one sort or another, in ADDITION to the unrest in the south, there is no doubt that the total over several years throughout the Country could be quite large. Perhaps she has concluded that to remain silent or indifferent is more a loss of objectivity than to question and investigate this obvious phenomenon, to which I think many reasonable professionals would agree. Following the lesson to the letter rather than the spirit doesn't necessarily make you a better professional, or even a better student for that matter.

*Added: Also, do not assume that body disposal requires burial, or unmarked graves on land.

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plachon, please read my comments again. I stated;

1. I am not saying that there may not be many undiscovered bodies related to the southern insurgency or to criminal activity in the border provinces.

2. In respect of a 100K disappearing due to the insurgency in less than 8 months, well, that's a bit over the top.

You state that Suggesting that mass graves are not hushed up in Thailand for years, you must either be extremely naive or biased (or both?). I'm not talking specifically about the South (although don't forget there are many large army bases there where it would be quite easy to bury/dump/burn large numbers of disappeared), and I don't think Dr Pornthip was either if you read the article, but explain if you will, how it was possible to dispose of the many bodies that were seen being trucked out of Bangkok in May 1992 and were never returned to relatives. The disappeared toll there was in the hundreds

I am certainly not stating that mass graves are hushed up. What I am saying is that it is difficult to dispose of 100,000 bodies so quickly. When one gets into a number like 100,000 it is not an isolated political event or rogue policing, it is state sponsored genocide.

I also stated that I hoped the staements made by the doctor were taken out of context. There may very well be bodies dumped and scattered about. I do not doubt that for a minute. There may even be a few on some military bases as you claim, but certainly not in the tens of thousands as would be required. Nor can you burn that many bodies without it being observed. Bodies have to be burned at very high temperatures to consume the bone structure and that requires crematoriums. You would need to have a few working flat out to get rid of 100,000 bodies. Then there is the issue of ash fallout and the stench. Burning flesh is not a very pleasant aroma and is noticeable.

Have you ever seen a mass grave? I have. The ground changes are noticeable in the first decade. As the bodies decompose there is runoff. There are changes in groundwater. There is also ground subsidence. When there are heavy rains as there are in Thailand, buried items sometimes become exposed, even if they are 1-2 M below the surface. If there were that many bodies buried, the chances are that at least a few thousand would have popped up by now.

For the most part, the soil structure in Thailand does not lend itself to to burying thousands of bodies in one place. One of the reasons why alot of the soil in Thailand is infertile is because of the leaching due to the heavy rains. When you get heavy rains, you get ground shifts where there are buried bodies.

I am not questioning your belief that bodies were removed from Bangkok at one time. However, the numbers for that even at the largest estimates are of 300 approx, (with other estimates being well under 100). That's certainly significantly different than 100,000. You would need convoys of trucks going back and forth for that. Don't you think someone would have seen this? With all the political bickering and infighting going on, surely some of the opposing parties would have raised the issue of such convoys if they could.

Like most others round here Geriatric, you're crusading too, so don't kid yourself any different. :o

Hardly crusading. It's skepticism arising from the actions and statements of someone that seems to thrive on being in the spotlight.

Again, please understand that I am not denying the likelihood of mysterious deaths. Nor am I denying that there may even be some graves. And I am certainly not justifying these disappearances. My doubt is in respect to the number of 100,000+ being offered. I think we can agree that whether there are 10 murders or 100 or 10,000, they are equally as wrong.

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