Bangkok – Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he has no plans to impose a violent solution to the southern crisis because he wants his government to be remembered as an advocate of peace, not a justifier of war. But in a hard-hitting editorial, The Nation suggests that the Prime Minister may have run out of plans on how to deal with the insurgency in the deep South.
Mr Thaksin, in a speech to mark the Thai Peace Day celebrations on Aug 17, said: "How my administration constructively solves the southern unrest will be the proof of my legacy as a protector of peace or else I would be of no use to this country."
But The Nation is doubtful that his administration is capable of ending the insurgency in the provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.
A quick glance at Mr Thaksin's actions since he was reelected by a landslide earlier this year "shows that the man has been improvising his southern policy all along", the newspaper said in an editorial.
There was the short-lived plan to stop official aid to areas in the deep South deemed as "hostile" to the government. He then announced plans for a "soft approach" by appointing a National Reconciliation Commission to offer long-term solutions to the problems in the Muslim-majority area.
Last month, he issued a controversial decree giving the government absolute power during a state of emergency. Like the zoning, the decree attracted widespread negative reaction from civil society.
Then, over the weekend, Mr Thaksin again swung back to "good cop" mode, The Nation noted.
"During a surprise visit to the region, he stated his willingness to engage in dialogue with the opposition and civil society and even make necessary adjustments, because the southern troubles 'are beyond party politics'."
The Nation said: "No one is sure what to make of Thaksin's latest peace overture. Disappointment and incoherence have always been hallmarks of this Prime Minister, who clearly has problems thinking things through, conceptualising his thoughts in order to come up with a principled approach to policy-making. He must learn that in order to get to the problem-solving stage, he must first learn to think logically."
* Floundering PM has no peace plan (The Nation, Aug 16)
* PM: Use of force not in my interest (Bangkok Post, Aug 17)