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South Thailand: The violence rages on while Nitya aims to reassure the international Muslim community

Updated On: May 11, 2007

It is unsurprising by now that any news from the Southern provinces of Thailand is sure to be of an escalation in violence.

No matter what policies have been mooted or meetings convened, or however many times the Bangkok officials make their way down to the border areas, there has been no upswing in the general scenario.

In what the Bangkok Post has dubbed “one of the deadliest insurgent attacks against security forces this year”, a roadside bomb detonated remotely by electrical wire killed 7 Thai soldiers Wednesday (9 May 2007) “as they were returning from a mission in an army vehicle in Narathiwat province's Rangae district”. The attack was particularly vicious as “the assailants shot all the soldiers in the head to make certain they were dead before making off with seven M16 rifles and six pistols”.

The fact that this was a “special warfare unit from Lopburi province in central Thailand were assigned to carry out psychological operations to win back the hearts and minds of local villagers”, shows plainly that the policies enacted in Bangkok obviously do not work. Added to this is that just a day earlier, Tuesday, “more than 1,000 villagers, mostly women and children, blocked the road in front of the army barracks in Nong Chik district of Pattani, to press for the release of 11 suspected militant sympathisers, before they dispersed willingly and inexplicably four hours later”. Civilian blockades comprising “veiled Muslim women and their children” seem to be a recurring phenomenon.

These incidents all spell out quite clearly that the majority of civilians in South Thailand are unconvinced of the gestures by the Thai government so far and wary of the authorities, while the insurgents scoff at their “peace overtures”. The Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) was perhaps wrong in proclaiming its support for Thailand’s Southern policies.

Nonetheless, Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram will attend the 34th session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) –a regular annual session to review the work of the OIC –on May 15-17 in Pakistan to “clarify the problems in the deep South”, the Thai News Agency reported. Nitya is to “explain the current situation in Thailand's far South to representatives of Muslim nations for their better understanding, and that he is scheduled to address the meeting on Thai policy to solve the problems with peaceful and reconciliatory measures”. It is said that “many Muslim countries have more than a casual interest in the situation and well-being of their religious compatriots in the Thai south, and that conversations initiated earlier with varied Muslim governments would continue”.

On his part, PM Surayud Chulanont will be visiting Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani again with some of his ministers this weekend.

The Bangkok Post editorial has come out to comment strongly on Southerners’ attitudes towards the violence. It says that however the civilians have made their demands to reduce the soldiers in the region, “it must be recognised that there is no quick fix for the southern conflict [and] like it or not, the presence of a large number of security forces in the deep South is necessary to ensure the safety of innocent people”. (10 May 2007)

Sources:

Seven soldiers killed in attack in South (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2007)

A prelude to worse civil disobedience? (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2007)

Nitya to lobby Islamic foreign ministers (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2007)

FM to explain Thai southern policy to world Muslim conference (TNA, 9 May 2007)

PM, Cabinet to visit southern violence sites, Andaman provinces (TNA, 9 May 2007)

Protest in front of army camp in Pattani ends peacefully (Nation, 7 May 2007)