Bangkok – The Thaksin government has been accused of relying too heavily on a military solution to end the violent insurgency in Thailand's deep South. Ironically, the security situation has deteriorated in recent months because the thousands of security forces sent there are not adequately trained in unconventional warfare being waged by faceless Islamic militants and Malay separatists, said The Nation.
In an editorial, the newspaper said an incident on Oct 5, in which insurgents riding in a pickup attacked six Army Rangers with automatic rifles at an isolated roadblock, "was but one in a long series of tactical blunders, showing poor organisation and lack of battle-readiness on the part of our security forces". Five of the soldiers were killed and the other seriously wounded in the attack.
The Nation said: "While insurgents are becoming much better at attacking troops and intimidating civilians in their area of influence, the security forces remain on the defensive. It might be that soldiers fear they could be lured into traps or ambushes… or perhaps they are reluctant to launch a hot pursuit into populated areas, for fear of causing civilian casualties.
"Either way, there is no excuse for police and military commanders to sit on their hands and do nothing while their poorly trained subordinates are being decimated. The most disgusting thing is these commanders continue their silly turf wars between the different security branches, while the situation in the deep South continues to escalate. "
Apart from the lack of battle-readiness, the authorities have also admitted that it was only recently that police and military units had started to train their troops to cope with mental stress and remain calm under fire. Only about 2,000 out of the tens of thousands of police and soldiers stationed in the South have completed tactical training to deal with the insurgency.
"Unless the military and police can put their houses in order, the war against the southern insurgency will only grow a lot worse," the Nation warned.
The newspaper's editorial came amid reports that a new Southern Province Administrative Committee (SPAC) has been set up to ensure a more effective response from the existing 21 security agencies in the southern provinces. The new set-up will also place more emphasis on police case work, including forensic investigations under Thailand's top forensic pathologist, Dr Porntip Rojanasunan.
Under the current system, a triumvirate of the sheriff of a district plus the military and police commanders must jointly decide on operational aspects such as the arrest of a suspect. And if military units pursue insurgents across provincial boundaries, they have to inform the commander of the province concerned. Such an arrangement has hampered a swift and unified response to insurgent attacks.
* Bangkok goes for simplicity in fight against insurgents (The Straits Times, Oct 8)
* Security forces must reorganise (The Nation, Oct 7)