The Bangkok Post reported on Wednesday that a Thai intelligence source based in the deep South have picked up information that “separatist groups were planning to form a clandestine government” called “the Islamic Pattani State”.
The source also said “core separatist leaders were summoned to meet overseas network representatives in a village in Malaysia's northeastern state of Kelantan on Monday to choose key members of the planned clandestine government” while “key leaders of the Runda Kumpulan Kecil group were also ordered to launch a new wave of attacks in the deep South”.
However, PM Surayud was sceptical of such rumours, saying that “the most pressing issue now [was] to overhaul the recently-revived Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), especially recruitment of its staff”.
Over the border, Malaysia DPM Datuk Seri Najib voiced concern at the sidelines of an agricultural event, saying that, “Thai south remains the one place in the region where terrorism lingers.” He also stressed that Malaysia did not host militant training camps, adding, “As far as security is concerned, there have been no serious acts of terrorism of concern except in southern Thailand.”
In an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post this week, Malaysia PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also praised Surayud for “making the right policy changes in the restive southernmost provinces”. He spoke in favour of Surayud’s soft approach, saying, “I think the policy of the current prime minister is more diplomatic. He likes to engage the people, likes to talk to them, to listen to their problems. And, of course, he will offer his ideas of what he thinks, of what they should do and how they should behave as Thai citizens. I think that is good.”
However, Abdullah advised the Thai government to have patience as it would take time for the people be convinced of Surayud’s intentions and to trust him enough so as “to embrace these changes and accept them”.
On the issue of infiltration by external terrorist networks like Jemaah Islamiyah, Abdullah admitted that “some people might be influenced by the JI, by their philosophy and their agenda”, the Bernama reported. If the government had knowledge of such occurrences, Abdullah stressed that firm and swift action needed to be taken in order that targeting of Westerners and foreign-owned businesses could be curbed. He said, “We have to act very fast because we know once that happens, as in our case, we must engage them, we must talk to these people ... we have to talk.”Above all, Abdullah emphasised that “Malaysia was concerned about what happened in southern Thailand”, saying, “It is in our neighbourhood ... If our neighbour is doing well, that would be very comfortable for us. A neighbourhood on fire is not good.”
Surayud plays down 'Pattani state' rumour (Bangkok Post, 13 December 2006)
Govt fears insurgent holiday attacks (Bangkok Post, 13 December 2006)
Thai south remains region's terrorism flashpoint, says Najib (Straits Times, 14 December 2006)
Elections before 2008 not likely, says Abdullah (Straits Times, 13 December 2006)
Abdullah Says Surayud Making Right Policy Changes In South Thailand (Bernama, 12 December 2006)