Monday, February 26, 2007

Bangkok Post's Solution to the Crisis in the South: Cut Off the Fertilizer


Bangkok Post

Cut access by militants to material of mayhem

Veera Prateepchaikul

Despite the deployment of tens of thousands of troops, police and paramilitary rangers in the three violence-prone southernmost provinces, the government appears to be fighting an unwinnable war against militants who have become more and more emboldened by their seeming ability to strike at will and escape scot-free. In a single night last week, the insurgents staged 51 coordinated bombings, shootings and arson attacks in Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala and Songkhla provinces which left six dead and dozens wounded. The apparent objective of the insurgents was to strike fear among locals as well as to challenge state authority.

Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas told parliament on Thursday that the militants had infiltrated universities and were now capable of launching attacks in Bangkok. The New Year's Eve bombings in Bangkok might have been carried out by the militants as one of the suspects caught on a security camera at Seacon Square was identified as a southern militant on a police wanted list. The militants have also recruited about 10,000 young people to form a "united front".

Gen Boonrawd attributed the militants' success in recruitment and in expanding their base of support to complacency and ignorance by authorities monitoring militant activities.

By comparison, the security forces are better equipped and have more manpower than the militants. Still, they are fighting a war in which they have little chance of success, not because they are incapable, but because they have almost no information about the militants, their leaders, their organisational structure or their networks. Cooperation from locals willing to provide information is almost nonexistent because of fear of reprisal by militants as well as entrenched distrust of authorities. The security forces are up against an invisible enemy who is capable of striking at will and then melt away into a crowd of innocent locals.

The desperation of security forces amid their failure to separate the militants from innocent people was clearly reflected in the following statement made by the defence minister to parliament.

"We do not know them. We do not know who is working against us. As long as they mingle with ordinary people, it's difficult to tell them apart."

While the security forces have yet to figure out how to identify militants, there are things clearly visible that can be done to impact militants _ aside from the effort to win the hearts of our Muslim brethren in the deep South which must proceed _ such as deprive the militants of fertiliser and nails, the materials they use to make bombs and puncture tyres.

Chemical fertiliser has become the main ingredient used by militants in their bomb-making, while spikes are used to slow down vehicles in pursuit of militants. The purchase of the materials in the southernmost provinces must be strictly controlled.

For instance, buyers must be required to show ID cards and state clearly what they intend to do with the materials. A customer who shows up to purchase one or two kilogrammes of two-inch or three-inch nails, but has no valid reason, should be suspected of wanting to use the nails for no good. Someone who does not own a rubber plantation should not be buying chemical fertiliser.

Shopowners, too, must be required to keep a record of customers for periodic submission to authorities.

Sale and purchase of ammunition for handguns must also be strictly controlled. This should not be applied to just gun shops in Bangkok and elsewhere, but also to shooting ranges where ammunition is readily available.

Of course, the regulations will cause inconvenience to sellers and buyers. But if anything can be done to hurt militants or weaken their capability to kill and maim innocent people, it must be done.

It should be acknowledged and accepted by all of us that there is no place completely safe from ruthless militants who have no respect for human life. And there is no way that security forces alone can deal effectively with this deadly threat by militants without the full support of the public.

Veera Prateepchaikul is Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Post Publishing Co Ltd.

Why not just make everybody register their sim cards to the authorities? Oops. They tried that already and things got worse.

The thing that is incredibly idiotic about this analysis is that all the things that Veera mentioned can bought in informal or black markets, and probably at a better price.

The fact is that the Thai military and police corruption is coming back to bite them on the ass.

Guess who is responsible for the illegal arms and contraband trade in the South? Thai police and military mafia. They don't know who their customers are?

And why would shop owners help the Thai police and military when those folks are the ones who extort money from them?

The problem is that many Thai institutions are rotten to the core. But the Thai media refuses to do any investigative reporting to expose the corruption either because they are afraid or incompetent or both. The Thai media can't go after the mafia figures who run Thai society, because the mafia pays the bills.

Why would the Thai media expose a corrupt racket when it is an integral part of that racket and profits from the status quo?
The media is on the scam. And that is the reason why no big shots are exposed and go to jail.

The Thai media covers up for the corruption and incompetence in Thai society rather than exposes it--and that is why nothing ever changes.

Access to information is what transforms societies. And one reason why I give the Thai media and the Thai academy such a hard time is because they are failing in providing the information Thais need to transform their society. Instead, they perpetuate the lies and pick up the checks from those running the rackets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

> Someone who does not own a rubber plantation should not be buying chemical fertiliser.

Umm... How about rice farmers? Orchard owners? The 80% of the population that makes their living from agriculture?!?

> Shopowners, too, must be required to keep a record of customers for periodic submission to authorities.

This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever read. Every stick of gum, every 50 satang cough drop, every cigarette? Does anybody expect a small shop owner to keep track of ID card numbers for every single purchase?