Giles Ji Ungpakorn
A recent article in New Mandala by Anders Engvall outlines a well-argued case for the Muslim Malay militants being behind the spate of bombing on the 11th and 12th August, giving a detailed account of other bombing incidents and also explaining why the Thai authorities would wish to play down the strength and ability of the insurgents. [ http://bit.ly/2bqoOk4 ]
This view is backed up by Anthony Davis, a writer for Jane’s Defence Weekly, who was interviewed by the BBC Thai service.
I would add that the spate of bombings in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve a few years ago could also be linked to the southern conflict. But I would disagree with Engvall that the recent bombing campaign in Patani before the referendum had any effect on the fact that most voters in Patani rejected the military’s constitution. After all, the Muslim Malay population have great reasons to hate and fear the Thai military which has occupied their land and oppressed them for more than a century. Voting against the constitution would be a reflection of this.
Following the return to military rule in Thailand, the so-called “peace talks” with the insurgents have hit rock-bottom because the military are against any form of autonomy, being extreme nationalists and royalists. These talks were always dominated by the military, even under civilian governments, but direct military rule has made things worse. No significant progress has been made and the military has been threatening human rights defenders in the south.
If the junta and its security forces were not so corrupt and inefficient and if there was any honesty and transparency in their work, they would analyse the bomb parts and see what similarities there were with previous bomb explosions. But past experience teaches us that they are both incompetent and deliberately dishonest. So they never seem to be able to say who was behind any bombings. Instead, the usual scapegoats are arrested.
The junta can be expected to lie about the bombings because any truth would undermine its claim to be a force for stability and peace.
On the issue of who might wish to target tourist areas to hurt the economy, Patani fighters have very good reason to do this and also have very good reasons to hate the Queen. It was her birthday and she is a rabid reactionary on many issues including Patani. She once said of the Patani conflict that if she wasn’t so old she would pick up a gun and fight the insurgents. Even members of the Privy Council have privately expressed unease at her past statements on the situation in the south.
Patani insurgents also have a long history of never claiming responsibility as a clear tactic. It helps to confuse the military and is part of a devolved command chain.
It is extremely unlikely that pro-democracy anti-junta forces were behind the bombs because it does nothing to further the cause and no one in the movement has advocated or used such tactics. Yet the junta have started to round up anti-junta suspects, many of them redshirt activists.
Furthermore, I do not believe in conspiracy theories that the military did it themselves. Such conspiracy theories merely fulfill the fantasies of those who wish to see everything as being the result of actions by top people while denying real grievances among ordinary people which lead them to take matters into their own hands.
National liberation movements often target civilians. This is linked to their faulty ideology, which not only ignores class solidarity, but leads to a mistaken belief that civilians from other ethnic backgrounds are somehow responsible for their oppression. It is also linked to the strategy of armed struggle which excludes the building of mass movements. Having said all that, the real culprits causing violence in such cases are the people who run the oppressive state, not those who react against it.