Narathiwat – Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is not ready toabandon the stickyet when it comes to dealing with the restive south.Instead, in a move that is likely to alienate Thai southerners further, Mr Thaksin announced on Feb 16 that his government would deny funds to villages whose local administrations are believed to be sympathetic to Muslim militants.
Duringa visit to Narathiwat on Feb 16, the first stop of his tour of the deep south since his triumph in the general elections, the Premiertold villagers that a government panel had divided villages in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani provinces into red, yellow and green zones depending on the degree of violence there.
Villages in the red zone would not get any help from provincial development funds worth 30 billion baht or the 20-billion-baht budget for the SML (Small, Medium, Large) village scheme, said Mr Thaksin. His Thai Rak Thai Party failed to win a single seat in the three provinces in the Feb 6 general elections, which he won by a landslide.
The three provinces have 1,500 villages. Many red-zone villages are in Narathiwat, the Prime Minister said.
He justified his action by saying: “I don’t want money going towards supporting insurgents in red-zone villages, to be used to buy bombs and guns.
“No one can use our money to separate [the deep South] fromThailand."
The Nation described the move as a “drastic political measure, the first of its kind since the anti-communist struggle of the 1970s and ’80s”.
During that period, government used the designations “red” to represent communist zones, “pink” for areas with some communist activity and “white” for communist-free zones. Unlike Mr Thaksin, however, the authorities of the time poured in money to develop the red zones and win the hearts and minds of the locals.
Local leaders and even some military officers believe that his move could backfire. Sources told The Bangkok Post that if development aid helps to discourage violence, it makes no sense to stop it from reaching the worst-affected areas.
Religious leaders said denying funds to these villages would push ordinary villagers into the hands of the militants.
* PM’s remedy for crisis in south: ‘Red’ villages face sanctions (The Nation, Feb 17)*
*Fund cut for southern hot spots (Bangkok Post, Feb 17)