Bangkok – Beheadings. Bombings. Drive-by killings. The almost daily occurrence of such acts of violence are part of the militants’ campaign in the deep South to discourage locals from cooperating with the authorities, said Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, General Prawit Wongsuwan.
"They have created a land of fear in the region. We must make people confident that we can protect them if they cooperate. We must explain clearly what we are doing and how we should live together under the Constitution in the same nation," Gen Prawit said on June 13.
To get the message across, the authorities must intensify public relations efforts in every village, he added.
But the government may need more than a PR blitz to assuage the fears of Thais living in the troubled southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
In the latest beheading incident, the head of a retired Buddhit teacher was found in a black bag on a bridge in Yaring, Pattani, on June 14.
The Bangkok Post noted that gruesome beheadings began in both Thailand and the southern Philippines after massive publicity and worldwide shock at videotaped decapitations in Iraq.
The random selection of victims and the terrible form of murder by beheading seem to suggest that the gangs responsible are merely trying to intimidate the religious communities of the South, and spread the violence.
"There seems little doubt the Thai and Philippine insurgents have tried to take advantage of the horror of Iraqis to such murders, to try to intimidate southern residents while inflaming Buddhists and Christians against the Muslims," the paper said.
But instead of inciting hatred among the various religious groups, the gruesome beheadings seem to have had the opposite effect.
"There are increasing reports from the South that Muslims and Buddhists have positively decided to work against the violent insurgents," the Post said.
*Militants ‘use fear to achieve ends’ (Bangkok Post, June 14)
*Fighting back at religious hatred (Bangkok Post, June 14)