It will comes as little surprise to anyone to hear that the various types of injustice in the southern border region has contributed to the violence there – we might debate the balance of importance between long-term injustice, criminal activity, terrorism and other factors but few people acquainted with the facts would deny them and their importance.
One of the main problems is the unaccountability of the military and their treatment of local people (there are many rumours for which evidence is contested which say that the region has been a ‘dumping ground’ for bad or incompetent local officials, police and others for decades) (there are many other rumours about the number of ‘foreign-trained’ (i.e. extremist) religious leaders and teachers and their acolytes).
One factor that is obviously not the case is that the current PM has any ability to influence the military in the south, given the way he was awarded power in a shabby deal. That makes it rather curious to read Supalak Ganjanakhundee in the Nation: “The government has done nothing significant to deal with the problem of justice and injustice in the predominantly Muslim region.
What the Prime Minister and his government have done since taking power in December is merely follow the footsteps of the military and bureaucrats in their old ways to handle the situation.
Prime Minister Abhisit said his government would use less of a military strategy and put more emphasis on justice. He also promised to revamp implementation of emergency and security laws.”
What is the point of writing this nonsense? We are grown-ups here and we know exactly what kind of a puppet Abhisit has become. Pretending otherwise just makes Abhisit’s performance even worse than it is by blaming him for those things he has no control over – it is like listening to what he says about the Rohingyas.
In his recent book Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (recently published here in paperback, that is), Duncan McCargo observes that there are five main ways of thinking about the causes of the violence (pp.5-7):
– cultural stereotypes of ‘hot-headed Southerners’ and criminal activity, oppressed by some malevolent public officials;
– long-term grievances about the suppression of the Malay-Muslim identity;
– a clash between pro- and anti-Thaksin forces in the military enacted in the South;
– the influence of external actors stirring up trouble (who range from Al Qaeda type terrorists to the CIA to the Singaporean government – I’m not making this up);
– desire for separatism as has been expressed previously.
The truth is, in my opinion, that various factors act together in combination, although that is I am aware a typically academic and unhelpful answer.