Amid the continuous violence in the Thai South, and despite PM Surayud’s continued profession that national reconciliation is one of his topmost priorities during his term, the public and the separatist groups are not biting the bait.
Just this week, three major occurrences have given the South a new twist. Midweek, Government spokesperson Yongyuth Mayalarp announced the government’s intention “to allow a dialect of Malay as a working language for government officials in three southern provinces dominated by ethnic Malay Muslims”. “The government will ensure that there are enough Malay-speaking officials… through training programmes,” Yongyuth added.
Yet it seems that the reaction from the South is –“So what?” The Southern inhabitants are becoming even more strident against the government. Again during midweek, the Bangkok Post reported that it took four hours of negotiation between two hundred villagers and the Yala district chief and police superintendent to disperse the crowd that had gathered to protest the troops and police units that had settled in two temporary bases, arguing “that they do not need the security forces there as they can protect themselves”.
Just yesterday, Wednesday, Wan Kadir Che Wan was described by the Al-Jazeera English TV during his exclusive interview with the news channel as leader of the Bersatu umbrella group of separatists in South Thailand. Bersatu is said to comprise Barisan Islam Pembangunan Pattani or BIPP, Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) and Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinat. Wan Kadir scoffed the Thai government’s efforts at promoting peace, going so far as to declare Surayud as “not interested in promoting peace” because the government has been overlooking negotiations with the separatist groups.
Wan Kadir said, “As far as I know, the (Surayud) government as of now does not make that approach in the South for these negotiations – forget about even negotiations, to even make a talk with the separatists. [They] only go to talk to the public.” While “the new groups responsible for much of the violence are unwilling to talk to the government because they believe they are winning in their attacks against Thai military targets”, Wan Kadir did not explain why he insisted the government speak to the former separatist groups. Logically speaking, it would be superfluous for the government to negotiate with those who were no longer very active in the hostilities.
Wan Kadir also dropped another bombshell in stating that the violence was “religious” –contrary to many studies that see it as ethnic turbulence –and as such the separatist groups receive foreign funding and are linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. He stated that the Southern people wanted more of their cultural and ethnic needs to be respected as they did not believe “complete separation” was possible. He also noted the “generational” gap between the separatist groups, stating the new ones were more strident in wanting separation while the former insurgents wanted to live in peace and dignity with better assimilation into the Thai society.
However, perhaps as a way of refuting Wan Kadir’s allegations, Surayud has come out to accuse Tom Yam Koong –a restaurant and food stalls operation inMalaysia –for funding the insurgency in the South. However, as to be expected, bilateral relations with Malaysia are again strained because of such remarks despiteThailand’s claims that both sides understand the issue. Malaysia Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow told the New Straits Times, “It is very imaginative of him (Surayud). It is absolutely baseless.” Fellow deputy minister Datuk Johari Baharom asked for proof, saying, “If this is true, we will investigate. But they must come to us with information first.”
Legal arbitration could return justice to South (Bangkok Post, 23 November 2006)
Backlash by KL, but PM tight-lipped (Bangkok Post, 23 November 2006)
Tom yum kung claim too hot for Malaysia (Nation, 23 November 2006)
Sonthi appears to play down Surayud's tom-yum-kung claim (Nation, 23 November 2006)
Report: Thai separatist leader says terror group JI has infiltrated groups in south (Jakarta Post, 23 November 2006)
JI may have infiltrated S. Thailand (Nation, 23 November 2006)
Separatist: Govt. not promoting peace (Bangkok Post, 22 November 2006)
Update: Yala anti-govt protest disperses (Bangkok Post, 22 November 2006)
Yawi to be used officially in South (Bangkok Post, 22 November 2006)
Separatist: Govt not promoting peace (Bangkok Post, 22 November 2006)
Surayud: Malaysia net funds violence (Bangkok Post, 22 November 2006)
Southerners now leaning toward authorities (Bangkok Post, 22 November 2006)
Village protest over police unit (Nation, 22 November 2006)
'Prove separatists get tom yam money' (New Straits Times, 22 November 2006)
Thai-Malaysian ties unaffected over PM's comment, Thai minister affirms (Thai News Agency, 22 November 2006)