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Optimism in resolving Southern Thailand conflict?

Updated On: Jan 06, 2006

Thai Deputy PM Chidchai Vanasatidya has claimed that the south will improve by April.

This is because most of the suspected insurgents have been arrested and locals are cooperating with officials. He estimated that the government had already solved 40% of the problem. In addition, 5,300 more police officers will be deployed to improve the arrest rate of suspected militants in this “100 percent internal conflict.” Chidchai added that “these insurgents work as independent cells. There is no big boss, but there are several key members.”

Chidchai also reiterated PM Thaksin’s words, saying that with redoubled efforts, the Thai government has “to rebuild trust and motivate key people within separatist groups to support the government.” “One way involves encouraging highly-educated Muslims from abroad to take part in solving the conflict and work for community justice” while “Thai-speaking government staff working in the south must learn Yawi … and learn about Thai Muslim cultural practices.”

This ties in with the “reconciliation and peaceful means” network that the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) will establish as it ceases operations in February due to public outcry over the murder of a monk and two boys in Pattani in 2005. This network will work closely with local civil groups to promote coordination and educate people on peaceful conflict resolution.

However, former Thai prime ministers, Anand Panyarachun and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh felt that this is over-ambitious unless the government comes up with decisive and consistent policies, and is open to criticism.

“It's the duty of the government to clarify allegations made against it. Any government is duty-bound to clear up doubts.” Anand also believed the security officers' patient efforts at reconciliation smoothened the process but “frequent and unreasonable changes of the Fourth Army commander … only obstructed the peace process,” Anand warned. Additionally, there must be justice and rule of law, with action against graft and abuse of state power. Anand also urged the media to play a more active role in digging up information so as to get to the root cause of the problems.

Chavalit said the government's methods were confusing as officials in the field lacked a clear understanding of its directions and local complexities. The Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command meant to coordinate operations in the South was hampered by the overlapping duties of its units. Moreover, “the large number surrendering was not a success as Chidchai claimed but rather could create mistrust between local residents and government officials as many these so-called militants were lured into giving up.” “Some were told they would get Bt100 for attending the surrender arrangement, but it was only realised later that they would be considered suspected militants when sat in front of television cameras,” Chavalit said.

The national newspapers also highlight that PM Thaksin’s impatience and reluctance to accept criticism have obstructed the peace process. The Bangkok Post has even stated, “With a background in criminology and having been a successful businessman before entering politics, the prime minister should have greater trust in his field commanders and give them greater freedom to do the job within the framework of the policy, with as little interference as possible.”

Sources:

*There’s hope for the South yet (Bangkok Post, 5 January 2006)

*State media ‘fail to help ease violence’ (Bangkok Post, 4 January 2006)

*Anand calls for fairness, consistency, (Bangkok Post, 3 January 2006)

*Soldier killed, 2 hurt in ambush in Yala, (The Nation, 3 January 2006)

*NRC members plan network, (Bangkok Post, 2 January 2006)

*Another 5,300 police to be deployed to restive South, (The Nation, 2 January 2006)

*Deep South: Violence is on the decline: Chidchai, (The Nation, 2 January 2006)