Friday, March 16, 2007

Bangkok Pundit: Deep South

Bangkok Pundit is discussing what is going on over in the South.

People may wonder why the government is adapting a soft approach to it instead of going in with guns blazing.

Well, Thaksin ripped apart the infrastructure that had been negotiated during the 90's between the government and violent southern elements.

Duncan McCargo goes into a lot of detail about it here(pdf)

Also, the soft policy seems to have Panitan Wattanayagorn's fingerprints all over it. He is a security expert on the South, and I'm sure General Sonthi , Prime Minister Surayud and former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan are part of the group formulating policy on the South at the moment. The soft approach seems to be endorsed by the International Crisis Group here--
with the caveat that a democratic government do the negotiating. The problem with this is that a democratic government might actually be more inclined to do a hardline approach if pushed to do so by the majority of Buddhist citizens who are fed up.

Even with the violence happening now, apparently there are secret negotiations going on between the government and the rebels/terrorists, or at least with elements willing to talk. The elders of the separatist movement have hinted that they can't control the younger, more radical elements.

When you think about it, the patience with the soft approach policy has been endless, and probably there are good reasons for it, but how long will it last. And, in the long run, will the government want to be held hostage to people who are willing to use violence against innocents as a means to a political end.

If somehow the Sonthi/Panitan/Surayud/Surin faction pull the soft approach policy off and the violence abates to nothing, security experts will probably see this as a break through on dealing with the terrorism problem.

If the violence continues unabated, the hardline approach will make a comeback because of pressures by the polity to do something, and the violence will probably take off to new levels.

The Thai media is losing patience with the soft approach which Bangkok Pundit has pointed out here.

Regardless, the government and the generals have done a horrible job articulating policy on the South. If they continue to ignore the media or at least not calm down the hardliners for a few months, the coup makers and Surayud will have more things to worry about than just a southern problem.


hobby said...

McCargo's piece made interesting reading in the light of recent events in Thailand (Coup, Prem, Surayud etc).

I am a little surprised that McCargo did not seem to consider the Islamist/Jihad/Global War on Terror to be much of a factor in the increased violence.

The types of killings happening lately seem to point to something more than the old separatist rumblings.

I know it doesn't help with the current problems down south, but if it was Thaksin's actions that caused the Islamist genie to get out of the bottle, he certainly has a lot to answer for.

Bangkok Pundit said...

Hobby: "I am a little surprised that McCargo did not seem to consider the Islamist/Jihad/Global War on Terror to be much of a factor in the increased violence."

I have long argued this as well. The myth seems to be that the police and military were all working in harmony and everything was rosy until Thaksin came along. He shifted power to the police and all hell broke loose, but the military and police have never got along.

The insurgent groups got their act together in the 90s and started an indoctrination campaign. The benefits which are starting to pay off now. The organisations the Thaksin dismanntled didn't stop that. With greater freedoms, more dissemination of Islamist propaganda etc has seen a rise of Islamic terrorism worldwide. But for many in Thailand it is convenient to ignore this and heap the blame on Thaksin. To paraphrase Giles Thaksin being the source of all evil has to be blamed for the nation's ills. I am not saying he is blameless, and have you read what I have written on the subject, he comes under criticism.

One of the most audacious arguments is the criticism of the police-favouring Thaksin's heavy handed tactics at Tak Bai and Kru Se. Forgetting it was the military behind the excesses. At Kru Se the facts don't seem to be in dispute, the military disobeyed a direct order from the Deputy PM, Chavalit, and stormed the mosque. Yet, it is all Thaksin's fault.

End of rant and back to some work.