Dad struggles to accept loss

Father of three kids killed in ambush denies insurgency links are to blame

The father of three boys killed in an ambush in Narathiwat's Bacho district on Monday night struggled to hold back tears as he relived the terrible moments.

Muslim women and children who lost family members in the 2004 violence at the Krue Se Mosque in Pattani’s Muang district rally at the mosque yesterday. ABDULLOH BENJAKAT

"It's hard for me to accept what happened to my family," Jehmu Maman, 40, said yesterday. The shooting took place about 9pm in front of his house, No.143/4 of Moo 7 in tambon Palukasamoh of Bacho district.

Mr Jehmu said he and his family had just arrived home after evening prayers at the village mosque. They were about to enter the house when gunmen hiding among nearby trees opened fire on them with automatic rifles.

"My wife shouted at me to run when she heard the gunshots. I fled into the forest behind the house, never thinking they [the gunmen] would kill my sons and shoot my wife," Mr Jehmu said.

While hiding in the forest he used his cellphone to contact his village chief, telling him that gunmen were attacking his home and that he needed help.

"When the gunfire stopped I ran from my hiding place and headed to my house which was peppered with bullet holes. There I found my three sons and wife lying in pools of blood," he said.

Jehmu Maman, 40, lost his three sons.

His sons, Muyahed Maman, 11, Bahari, 9, and Eleyas, 6, were seriously wounded and taken to Bacho Hospital, where they were later pronounced dead.

His wife Padeelah Mayu, 33, was shot in the right hand and was yesterday moved from Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Hospital in Narathiwat to Songklanakarin Hospital in Songkhla.

Mr Jehmu sustained minor injuries after being shot in the right leg.

Asked what the likely motive behind the attack was, Mr Jehmu said: "I don't know if I've made anyone that angry with me to do such a thing. Every day I leave home early in the morning to tap rubber trees, collect firewood for sale and teach Muslim children at a tadika Islamic school in the village." He said he had four children and had to work hard to feed them.

Mr Jehmu said his 12-year-old daughter was not at home on Monday because she was at a ponoh school in Pattani's Sai Buri district.

"I admit I'm scared. I won't take my wife and daughter back to that house for sure," he said.

Sareepa Musor, a psychologist at Bacho Hospital, said the attack was one of the most horrible crimes she has come across, and it had deeply shocked the local community.

Mrs Sareepa said hospital staff were sent to talk to people in the village where the attack occurred. Villagers said the shootings were horrific and that a climate of fear had descended on the community since the attack.

Mrs Sareepa said she knew Mr Jehmu's family well.

Mr Jehmu was a good man who took an active role in village life while his wife has been teaching at a tadika Islamic school in the village for the past 10 years.

She said their three sons were also good students and their teachers thought highly of them.

"It's hard to accept the loss of these three kids. Their lives should not have ended this way," she said.

Shortly after the crime, rumours started spreading that it was the work of the authorities.

Police and soldiers in the area have denied having anything to do with it. They say insurgents spread the rumours to whip up hatred against them.

The motive remains a mystery, but police are looking at several possible reasons.

Pol Maj Gen Pattanawut Angkhanawin, commander of the Narathiwat Provincial Police, believes a personal conflict was the likely motive behind the shootings because Mr Jehmu had allegedly shot dead Mayi Duere, an assistant to the village chief in tambon Sai Thong of Pattani's Mai Kaen district, on April 21, 2012.

Pol Maj Gen Pattanawut said Mr Jehmu is currently on bail awaiting trial. But Mr Jehmu said the Appeal Court had upheld a lower court ruling that had found him not guilty of the murder and that prosecutors had decided not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Pol Maj Gen Pattanawut said an in-depth investigation would be completed within a week.

He did not rule out a link to the southern insurgency.

Mr Jehmu was suspected of being involved in an attack on a military base in Bacho district on Feb 13 last year. Insurgent leader Maroso Chantrawadee and his subordinates were killed during the attack. Mr Jehmu denies being involved.

About the author

Writer: Abdulloh Benjakat
Position: Writer