In Thailand’s far south, OHCHR calls for protection of civilians and medics at all times
BANGKOK (5 April 2016) – The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) deplores the recent actions of armed insurgents who took over a public hospital in the far south of Thailand and used it to launch an attack against government forces.
Hospitals, medical units and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law, and they should not be targeted or used for military purposes at any time.
At about 5 pm on 13 March, some 40-50 insurgents entered Joh I Rong Hospital in Narathiwat province, taking control of the main building and staff residence. At least 11 patients and 10 staff were in the buildings at the time, reports said.
The armed group then used the facility to launch an attack against the nearby Army Ranger Base Camp 4816. Reports said the assault lasted nearly 30 minutes. No one was killed or hurt during the attack. Before leaving the hospital complex, the armed group allegedly destroyed or damaged hospital equipment and medical records.
“This incident is a flagrant breach of international law. We are appalled that a public hospital was used in such a manner, and that the lives of hospital staff and other civilians were put at risk,” said Laurent Meillan, the acting regional representative for OHCHR.
At least 112 public health officials and volunteers have been killed or wounded and 28 medical centres burned or bombed during the 12-year long insurgency, according to the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, but this is believed to be the first time a public hospital has been used to stage an attack. “This new tactic is deeply concerning. We remind all parties to the conflict that they must abide by international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Meillan.
All civilians, including medical personnel, teachers and other public workers, as well as civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and places of worship and culture should be protected at all times.
All parties to the conflict should also ensure that they distinguish between civilian and military targets, comply with the principle of proportionality, distinction and necessity when conducting operations, and to take all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians.
The Government's response to this incident should also be guided by the rule of law and respect for human rights.
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The Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations' human rights efforts.
OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org
OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org/