Monday, February 26, 2007

The Nation: The Likud Party of Thailand?


The Nation

A long and arduous war

Government must not negotiate with southern insurgents until they agree to a complete laying down of arms

Is this idiocy or what? Why would the insurgents lay down their arms when the Thai armed forces or doing shit to stop the violence?

Thailand, which has spent the past three years in deep denial about the real potential of the armed struggle against the state by Islamic militants/Malay separatists in the deep South, is now finding itself on the verge of a full-scale insurgency and terrorism that could engulf the entire country. Even at this advanced stage of the war on terror, the country's security apparatus, including the armed forces, national police and intelligence agencies, continue to do their jobs badly and with little coordination among themselves.

Sounds about right. Advanced stage? It is probably going toget even worse.

No one organisation was assigned to lead or take ownership of the government's sorry excuse of an effort to suppress the insurgency in the Malay-speaking southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat as well as in some areas of Songkhla, where some 2,000 people have been killed since violence broke out in January 2004. The government's incoherent and vaguely defined policy to counter the insurgency through "peaceful means" is widely interpreted by security forces in the deep South as a tacit instruction to avoid military engagement.

Wasn't this the same newspaper that was criticizing Thaksin's heavy handed approach to the South?

The southernmost provinces have been transformed into a war zone with daily roadside bombings and ambushes against military patrols as well as the brutal killings of innocent civilians carried out with impunity by insurgents who have total freedom of movement and are able to flee the killing zones and then blend into the nearest village or community. Despite this, virtually no attempt has been made to pursue insurgents in order to try to apprehend them or to kill them if they were to resist arrest.

I guess The Nation has never had to deal with the Thai law enforcement bureaucracy before, which seems more capable in corruption, mafia activities, coups, and embezzlement more than doing its actual duties. But I suppose The Nation's editors expect a King Naresuan like efficiency to Thailand's security problems.

It is understood that the policy of not allowing security forces to fight insurgents is based on the fear of causing civilian casualties, which would be counterproductive to the government's effort to win over the hearts and minds of locals in the area. Obviously insurgents who hide among civilians are aware of the government's reluctance to go after them in populated areas and they make the most of the situation. Improvised explosive devices are being made and weapons stored in people's homes.

So? Does this mean that Thailand's security forces are in a Catch 22 situation?

Because of their familiarity with the local terrain and their ability to count on local sympathisers or fearful villagers to provide them with shelter, insurgents can effectively carry out guerrilla hit and run tactics, inflicting maximum casualties to wear down troops' morale, as well as staging terrorist attacks against soft targets to intimidate civilians. They are able to do this with very little or no cost to themselves.

Funny, if The Nation has got it all figured out, then the military and policy must have it figured out, so the solution is to find a way around these problems.

More than three years have elapsed and although thousands of terrorist attacks, acts of sabotage, roadside bombings, ambushes and murders have taken place, only about a dozen of these cases have found their way to the courts. In other words, virtually all insurgents are able to go out to kill and maim as many innocent people as they want to without having to fear that they will somehow be made to pay for their atrocities.

Fighting terrorism through Thailand's worthless and corrupt court system? Will that work? Obviously not.

In the meantime, the military, police and intelligence agencies continue to complain that they have been unable to identify or locate - let alone fight - insurgents because people are too afraid to cooperate with them.

A couple paragraphs above, The Nation said they knew the MO for the terrorists, why are the national security services complaining that they don't know what to do. All those brains and not one idea?

The inexcusable failure by security forces to restore a semblance of law and order is not only scuttling the government's effort to win hearts and minds but is also convincing the local people that insurgents have gained an upper hand in the war to establish a Malay homeland.

There is probably some truth to this

Worse, the suggestion made by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont that the government is considering negotiating with separatist groups to ask them to persuade the insurgents to come to the negotiating table is sending the message that it is acceptable to use terrorism as a tool to bargain for political objectives. What happens if the insurgents are not happy with the terms that the government offers them? Would they then go out and kill a few thousand more people or pull off a really big terrorist attack in Bangkok, and other commercial, industrial and tourist hubs to bring the whole country to its knees?

But isn't this exactly the strategy that all those peace loving Thai intellectuals and media personalities argue for the rest of the world that is victimized by terrorism? I guess the Thai's cause is righteous and Muslims should bow down to their feet because they are Thai, but for the rest of the world, the Thai intellectuals argue, you deserve to be killed for offending the Muslims.

The war on terror will be a long and arduous one. The government still has time to reorganise and reorient security forces so that they can do a proper job in bolstering its efforts to win peace. There must be no negotiations under fire. The only acceptable precondition for talks is for insurgents to lay down their arms and abandon their secessionist aspirations.

Wow, The Nation has transformed itself into the Likud Party of Thailand. I wonder when The Nation will be sponsoring symposiums for right-wing Israeli and neo-conservative groups from the US.

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