This sleepy little town has a post office, bank, police station, hospital and a market, along with a largely deserted stretch of beach but is best known for what became known as the Tak Bai Massacre on 25 October 2004.
On that day a largely peaceful protest in front of Tak Bai police station of some 1,500 people, demanding the release of six village defence volunteers, turned ugly, when, after the crowd refused (or was unable) to disperse, authorities fired into the crowd. This action killed seven protesters, including a 14 year old. The aftermath formed one of the most shameful episodes of the long-running troubles in far southern Thailand.
After allowing women and children to leave, police rounded up some 1,300 men and boys and laid them up to six deep in 28 trucks for transfer to an army base in Pattani. The ensuring trip, which would normally take no more the one and a half hours took an average of five hours as the trucks took varied routes and stopped or were delayed for long periods of time. During the transportation 78 protesters died, mostly of asphyxiation.
In response to the explosion of local and international outrage following this incident, ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra first reaction was to suggest that the deaths were the Muslims' own fault for fasting during Ramadan: "It's normal that their bodies could not handle it. It's not about someone attacking them". While he later back-pedalled somewhat, his comment well-illustrated his apparent lack of concern for the victims and lack of understanding of what actually happened.
By Stuart McDonald.