Causes of Violence in the South

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.


New Cabinet Line Up; Bombs; Doing the Timewarp (Again)

The new cabinet has been announced and received its royal endorsement. Perhaps the most noteworthy change has been the demotion of former Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamruang and his replacement by a copper, Pol. Gen. Kowit Wattana, who also becomes one of the (far too) many deputy prime ministers. Mingkwan Saengsuwan has moved from Commerce to Industry, although Finance Minister Surapong Suewonglee has kept his job. Chaiya Somsab, who was forced to resign in one of the court attacks, has returned as Commerce Minister. There are various other changes but do not seem to be any more women and diversity is noticeable by its absence. Such is life.

Seven bombs exploded in Songkhla last night, fortunately wounding only two people. However, a man described as a ‘Muslim teacher’ was shot dead in Yala, On Thursday, a bomb explosion injured 17 people and closed circuit TV has apparently helped identify some suspects. Two soldiers were wounded on Tuesday by a remote controlled bomb, also in Yala. In other criminal news: anti-democracy activists are holding another mob demonstration in Central Bangkok, disgracefully trying to attach their names to those who died actually protesting for democracy. Some are determined criminals intent on bringing down democracy in Thailand altogether and others are just useful idiots.

Ten debutantes have been unveiled as the newest entrants to Thailnd’s high society. The young women, sorry ladies, are apparently ““instilled with good education, good manners and special skills that are good ideals for the new generation.” Let’s go back to the 1950s, when paramilitaries patrolled the streets, the courts threw people into prison without evidence or after show trials, war was threatened with neighbours on the flimsiest of pretexts and all was well with the world. Eh? Oh.

Yala Murders; Hmong Repatriations; Lottery Arguments

Three people have been shot dead and five more wounded when terrorists opened fire on a tea-house in Yala. M-16 and AK-47 rifles were apparently used in the shooting, undertaken by two men on the back of a pick-up truck. More than 3,000 people have now been killed in the insurgency since weapons were stolen from an army base in 2004. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has blamed the army for blocking an enquiry into the death of Imam Yapa Koseng. So many people have been killed, according to the Rights group, that there should be some strong evidence in some cases at least and this would be an opportunity for the army leadership to show its good faith. It has, consequently, failed to do so. The army launched a military coup in 2006 and many people have been killed and disappeared over the years without prosecutions being brought.

215 Hmong people will be repatriated to Laos on a more or less voluntary basis. UN observers seem to have found the treatment provided by Thai authorities acceptable, although the Hmong did burn down their own shelters the other day in a protest against their treatment. Many of the Hmong fear (with some justification) persecution by the Pathet Lao government for having fought on the side of the US in the Second Indochinese War (as we are going to call the Vietnam War here).

More controversy about the lottery: hundreds of ticket vendors have been protesting in front of the Finance Ministry concerning new arrangements and Minister Surapong Suebwonglee has promised to look into it all again. The vendors make their money as intermediaries in the sale of tickets, wandering from place to place with the wooden folders of tickets around their necks. People buy two tickets for 100 baht, when their actual cost is 80 baht but pay the extra because the vendors come to them and because they can choose the numbers they like. It was a previous attempt to regulate the lottery properly that has been used as one of the nuisance charges brought by the junta-appointed Asset Scrutiny Committee to try to persecute democratically-re-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.