Pattani – National Reconciliation Commission chairman Anand Panyarachun believes that ignorance of cultural diversity and incompetent civil servants have fanned the flames of unrest in the deep South. However, the Narcotics Control Office and the Thai military hold a different view: They believe that drug warlords may be behind the rising violence in the region.
Their motive: To draw away attention from their drug trafficking activities.
"We have clear information that drug gangs have been using money from the drug trade to support the instigators of the violence, and give them drugs so their followers are fired up enough to cause violence," said Mr Vittawan Sunthornkajit, the narcotics office director in charge of drug suppression in the South.
Col Songwit Noonpakdi, commander of the 36th special task force overseeing Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district, had the same view.
He said bombings and acts of violence would occur wherever drug smuggling was planned in order to block military forces from entering the area. In some cases, bombs would be set off elsewhere as a distraction.
Mr Vittawan said he viewed the spread of drugs in Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district and Songkhla's Hat Yai district as the most serious problem in the South due to the tourist attractions there.
In Bangkok, Mr Anand offered a totally different view of the violence in the South during a speech to the National Assembly.
He said: "Part of the southern conflict comes from a lack of understanding (by state officials) and the rejection of cultural diversity and different ways of life."
People in the deep South have no faith in state officials and this has left the door open for disgruntled insurgents to create violence, he said.
Mr Anand offered several proposals for the government to promote cultural diversity as a solution to the southern conflict.
They include promoting the status of pondok schools and having a better understanding of them. He also called for educational reforms to promote a society with better understanding of cultural diversities.
"Don't make the minority villains," Mr Anand said.
* Drug rings 'behind unrest' (Bangkok Post, Aug 31)
* Anand: Ignorance to blame (The Nation, Aug 30)