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Would the South get better if Thaksin wins the polls?

Updated On: Aug 18, 2006

Just after the shock of the widespread and systematic attacks that took place earlier this month, military intelligence has just caught wind of news that another “major onslaught” will “strike when and where the authorities appear weak”, Police Region 9 chief Adul Saengsingkaew admitted to the Bangkok Post.

Pol. Lt-Gen Adul added that “the police forward command centre in Yala had just completed a tactical review, including retraining for personnel and a boosting of capabilities”, while security has been increased in vulnerable areas.

Such measures are not good enough according to Democrat party chief adviser Chuan Leekpai, who questions why the government has not come to the bottom of the matter, failing to discover the cause of the unabating violence and being overcome by the immensity of renewed guerilla operations in the South.

A Tharn Settakij editorial in the Bangkok Post by has declared that “the upsurge of violence in the deep South should be the top priority issue for all political parties seeking to win the forthcoming general election”. It stresses that the daily violence in the South cannot be whitewashed over as Southerners live in fear –all citizens “have the same rights and freedoms stipulated in the Constitution”.

Presently, Privy Council President Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, Privy Council member Gen. Surayuth Chulanont, Army commander Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin and several other prominent military figures have recently met the governors from Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Satun to discuss measures to curb the unrest.

Fourth Army Area Commander Lt-Gen. Ongkorn Thongprasom has said that “the lack of a unified command, state ignorance of education needs and political meddling were primary reasons for the unresolved Southern violence”. He predicts that the conflict will be long-drawn as “the insurgents have been given a lot of time to organise as certain units have been dissolved or withdrawn” –a hint at the longstanding programmes that had been abolished since Thaksin took office. 

Gen. Ongkorn stressed that “troop reinforcement must be done in parallel with a political solution, encouraging greater participation of the people, and dialogue”, in order to calm local anger at being slighted as “second-class citizens” by insensitive bureaucrats sent by Bangkok.

Democrat leader Abhisit has also added to the cacophony of criticism, saying, “The Thai Rak Thai administration has been an aberration. There had been a steady improvement over the last few decades and the approach that all successful governments used was respect for the rule of law and making sure that there is justice… I think it’s been proven by the fact that when we were in government we managed to make the situation improve considerably.” He also alluded that the situation could get out of hand with foreign extremism infiltrating into the local conflict.

Whatever these leaders think the Southern conflict is about, and how it is to be resolved, something effective must be done quickly. Already NarathiwatRajanagarindra Hospital –a major hospital in the deep South –faces a shortage of blood supplies because of the continuing conflict. Ms. Kesorn Witoonwarakorn, chief of the hospital's blood bank, told the Thai News Agency that the Thai Red Cross Society’s National Blood Bank in Bangkok supplied about 80 percent of the hospital's need, while the remaining 20 percent will now be sought monthly from local residents.

Thaksin’s ineffective and brutal policies in the South have been touted to cause more problems than bring peace. Although the South desperately needs peace and that this should be the coming elections’ focus, it is uncertain what the outcome of the polls will be. Although the Democrats have unveiled their platforms, they have been criticized for lack of substance.

The TRT seems set to sweep all the Northeast seats as residents there profess allegiance in the belief that the party helps the poor, the Nation reported. Thaksin has also hinted overtly that he would like to take the helm again if given the chance. He has declared, “If the country gains nothing from me and if someone can perform as well as or better than me as the prime minister, I will not seek another term as prime minister because I am already tired.”

Whatever it is, the Southern conflict looks set to remain status quo, if not worse, in the foreseeable future.

Sources:

Prescription for peace in South: unity, dialogue, no politics (Thai News Agency, 17 August 2006)

Poor northerners still back Thai Rak Thai (The Nation, 17 August 2006)

Priority No.1: Southern peace (Bangkok Post, 16 August 2006)

Prem seeks solutions as killing continues (The Nation, 16 August 2006)

TRT expects to sweep Northeast (The Nation, 16 August 2006)

Narathiwat's hospital faces shortage of blood (Thai News Agency, 16 August 2006)

Abhisit warns of foreign infiltration in the South (Thai Day, 16 August 2006)

Thaksin says he will retire if someone can perform PM's duty like him (The Nation, 17 August 2006)

Rebels 'preparing for major attack' (Bangkok Post, 16 August 2006)