Bangkok – With violence back with a vengeance in the deep South in recent weeks, hardliners in the Thai government are making a renewed push for using aggressive tactics once again in hunting down suspected insurgents, reported The Nation. This can be seen in the recent request by the Defence Ministry for 2.78 billion baht to buy a wide range of weapons to contain violence in the region.
According to the newspaper, the arms shopping spree, if approved by the Cabinet, would effectively mark the return of a military-led approach to the violence in the restive region.
Three months ago, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had announced that the government would use a "soft-approach" to win the hearts and minds of those in the Malay-speaking region where nearly 800 people have been killed since January 2004.
However, a source told The Nation that as violence increased in recent weeks, the hardliners felt that it was time to resort to aggressive tactics once again.
Mr Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University's Research Centre for Peace Building and a member of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), said the proposal to increase military capacity goes against the government's policy of employing political means to resolve the situation in the South.
"The government should allocate a budget to strengthen the justice system, such as providing more resources for forensic science and intelligence gathering," he added.
The military's search-and-destroy tactics are not suitable for the current situation, Mr Gothom said.
"We should instead pursue a reconciliation approach with the insurgents. These people…are essentially Thai nationals. If they do something wrong they should be dealt with within legal means,” he added.
* Army wants Bt2.8 bn for choppers, weaponry (The Nation, July 8)