Giles Ji Ungpakorn
The junta’s Minister of Defence recently convened a meeting of the internal security operations command and the government’s southern management committee to determine the junta’s policy for the south. He announced that a new unit of navy marine rangers would be set up at a cost of 1.7 billion baht. In addition to this it was announced that a further 2,700 automatic weapons would be distributed to village defence volunteers and that 2000 more policemen would be recruited. This policy has been criticised by some peace campaigners.
General Prawit Wongsuwan, the junta’s Minister of Defence made the ludicrous statement that the soldiers were sent to the south to “look after the people, not to fight with anyone”. It never fails to amaze how these military pin-heads can trot out bare-faced lies and expect people to believe them.
Since 2004 six thousand people have died in the bloody conflict in the south, most of them at the hands of the military and their shady proxies. There are already 150,000 Thai soldiers stationed in the area.
The conflict is a result of the long running repression by the Thai State against the Muslim Malay people of Patani. The army and the police under various administrations, both military juntas and elected civilian governments, have committed gross human rights abuses in Patani and they see the local population as the “enemy”. The Thai State treats the area like a colony of Bangkok, forcing “Thainess” down people’s throats and banning the local Yawee language in official areas and schools.
Meanwhile retired general and opportunistic politician Chawalit Yongjaiyut has travelled to Patani to re-kindle his support base there. He is in favour of a special administrative zone for Patani, but insists that there can be no autonomy or independence. Chawalit went on to praise Prayut’s military coup and said that the military was making “great sacrifices” for the nation by doing their selfless work under great criticism from inside and outside the country. Chawalit used to be allied to Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party and was a darling of some NGO groups like “Friends of the People”.
Today Patani is flooded with weapons, which are in the hands of soldiers, police, village defence volunteers and anti-government rebels. Sending in more troops and more guns is not the answer, but it is the usual knee-jerk reaction of the military-minded generals who now run Thailand. These people are not interested in peace. They want the subjugation of the local population or at least containment of the conflict by using state violence. The tin-pot generals dismiss the ability of civilian politicians to solve the crisis and they also benefit from this military intervention in the South, both politically and financially.
Peace can only be achieved by de-militarising the area and by removing the weapons held in the hands of soldiers and government volunteers. The fixed idea that Thailand “must” be a unitary state must also be scrapped. This could set the scene for political discussions among local peoples aimed at self-determination and self-rule. However, none of this can happen while Thailand is ruled by the military.
For an in-depth analysis of the conflict in Patani read my article: “The Bloody Civil War in Patani and the Way to Achieve Peace” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/207169526/The-Bloody-Civil-War-in-Patani or at http://redthaisocialist.com/english-article/72-academic-papers/440-the-bloody-civil-war-in-patani-and-the-way-to-achieve-peace.html