Akha People of Thailand testify against military violence

There are approximately 20000 Akha living in Thailand’s northern provinces ofChiang Rai and Chiang Mai at high altitudes. The Akha lack in human rights. Their land is being taken by business and forestry interests, their children are being taken from the villages by American backed missions, further speeding their eviction from the mountains which is the chief goal of both Government and business. The Akha land, essential to the survival of their community, is being converted into resorts, parks, and economic projects for other people. The list goes on. It is a familiar theme throughout the world, where torture, famine, and other inhumane treatment become the everyday life to the indigenous people. Consequently, Akha people are not an exception.

According to a recent report from Bangkok Post, authorities have resorted to torture and murder of hilltribe suspects on the faulty charges of drug abuse and possession. Ateh Amoh, an Akha man, said he was savagely beaten by soldiers who took him and other Akha men, mostly drug users, from their homes and held them at a military camp.

There they beat them to extract a confession. Ateh Amoh’s neighbor Ajuuh Cheh Muuh Gooh, 42, died from the beating. The authorities denied any wrongdoing and said Ajuuh's death was caused by withdrawal symptoms as a result of his attempt to end his opium habit during a detoxification program.

After Ateh and his neighbor Ajuuh were forcibly taken from the village they were pushed down in a small hole in the ground filled with water, coal, and ashes. ``The soldiers never said why they were treating us like that. We doubted this was an opium detoxification process, Ateh said. That night everyone was pulled from the hole, then blindfolded and led off separately for questioning.” ``The soldiers never talked about the opium detoxification programme. They tried to force me to admit the drug charges by electric shocks to my ears, kicking my face and body, punching me hard in the body and hitting me with a gunhandle on my head and chest several times. ``When they felt that I could no longer stand it because my body was soaked with blood, they took me back to the hole and left me there for a night and a day.”

Ajuuh died in that same water hole. Ateh was there to witness his death as he himself could barely stand up on his feet: “I heard him calling for his father and mother, and he talked about his children and wife. ``I saw him dying before my eyes and I was scared almost to death myself.” Following Ajuuh’s death military officials released a statement denying all the accusations of torture and inhumane mistreatment. Ateh Amoh’s account of his experience at the military camp is just one of many cases showing the inhumane treatment of the Akha peoples. Only a few of these criminal cases have reached the government officials; most of them either ignored or not properly investigated.