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South policy flaws exposed by violence

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South policy flaws exposed by violence | Thaiger


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South policy flaws exposed by violence
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Although violence in the deep South seemed to decrease during June-September, it swept back ferociously in the month of October when six schools and two tambon administrative organisation offices were burned down. Most recently, four Pattani restaurants/karaoke bars were bombed in less than a week following the Tak Bai 10th anniversary.

Col Pramote Promin, spokesperson for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4, on Saturday blamed separatists for the bombings. They were a response to national intelligence reports that insurgents threatened to launch attacks ahead or after the Tak Bai anniversary (October 25) and security officers tried their best to be on watch – but the insurgents shifted to less-guarded targets.

Similar bomb components

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) reported the bomb components in the latest attacks were similar to those used in the May 24 incident in which 20 bombings occurred in Pattani province two days after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) seized power, suggesting the Friday attacks were the work of the same group. Officials felt the national security-originated approach to solve southern unrest by the NCPO and the government hadn’t been successful so far in achieving even a passable result.

Among the announced “new tasks” was the peace dialogue with separatists but, until now, the master plan had not been officially approved. Also the plan was unable to garner public attention or local residents’ participation. Most works were about fighting for media space or the solving of internal problems such as state agencies’ unity and budgetary integration, while the concrete result in the region wasn’t so clear-cut, neither was a scheme to repair the deep South’s roads by asphalt-para rubber mix.

The “old tasks” that had been long-standing were also not solved or clearly addressed. Sore points included:

l The Tak Bai incident in which 78 anti-government protesters “died from suffocation”: people continued to wonder why the government couldn’t re-investigate the case or boost the victims’ confidence by having the cases brought to court via the National Human Rights Commission mechanism. Other cases in which state officers might be involved should also be re-investigated to ensure investigations were treated to the same standard as those of civilian suspects. If the officers were found guilty and punished accordingly, it would boost people’s faith in the state.

l Lifting of the emergency decree and the “taking people home” project allowed misguided insurgents/ sympathisers to turn a new leaf. They were implemented only in a small scale but managed to get some local support. However they didn’t yield the psychological effect among the wider public that the government was sincere because many major cases – like the Tak Bai incident or the alleged torturing of people to get confessions – remained unclear.

l Many new incidents centred around violence, despite state officers’ explanations they stemmed from mistakes. They included the case in which an officer manning a checkpoint in Narathiwat’s Bacho district shot at a suspect car and hit a 10-year-old girl; and the case in which a para-military volunteer shot dead a 14-year-old boy in Narathiwat’s Sri Sakhon district while allegedly believing their outpost was being attacked. The volunteer then allegedly placed a gun in the boy’s hand.

l Many locals believed officials were involved in drug trafficking, illegal gasoline business and pirate goods smuggling because these crimes were widespread in the region but remained untouched. Checkpoints were set up on roads, but people wondered why traffickers passed through or avoided detection. The case of Pattani-based businessman Sahachai Jiansermsin, a suspected illegal gasoline trader who managed to flee from police custody after receiving a 21-month jail term for possessing forged state documents, didn’t get much attention from the government. Local authorities’ investigations led to the punishment of one policeman for neglect of duty as the policeman was the one guarding Sahachai at the court. Sahachai’s case only convinced people the government wasn’t sincere in seriously tackling illegal businesses in the region.

l Although special law implementation empowered police and military officers to provide security and limited people’s freedom and rights – it seemed these laws hadn’t limited culprits’ freedom to launch attacks, leaving local people with little confidence in the state. The emergency decree had been renewed every three months for 37 times already. These incomplete tasks prompted people not to co-operate with the state – therefore projects like the Thung Yang Daeng project that hoped to get the public support might not be successful or might be adopted just to get budget. If the state was unable to solve the old conditions, to stop creating new conditions, and to restore public confidence, it would be difficult to get public co-operation and the region’s situation would not improve permanently but just shift from one target to another.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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