Peace may be achieved if South handed to southerners
Speculation about the South insurgency is neither here nor there, says Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.
He has been continuously voicing concern about the ensuing confusion and undue media attention every time leading figures start faulting each other for every violent incident.
Reports from the strife-torn region over the past nine years show that regardless of whether an attack or counterattack is given a negative or positive spin, peace is still an elusive goal in the southernmost provinces.
If government leaders and critics try to test a new counterinsurgency idea every time a bomb goes off, then people living in the South will not just be prey to insurgency but will become victims of confusing attempts to quell violence as well.
Prayuth was very perceptive when he pointed out that speculative talks were irrelevant to ensuring peace and ending strife.
The insurgency has persisted since 2004 and the successive governments, under Thaksin Shinawatra, Surayud Chulanont, Samak Sundaravej, Somchai Wongsawat, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck, have appeared befuddled about how to resolve the situation.
The best brains on counterinsurgency, politicians of all stripes, community leaders, Islamic scholars, academics from various disciplines and prominent figures from all sectors of society have had their say on what should be done in order to bring about peace.
The country appears to be overloaded with ideas, but lacks the resolve to choose and bring ideas to fruition.
In 2004 there were 1,154 violent incidents; 2,078 attacks in 2005; 1,934 in 2006; 2,475 in 2007; 1,370 in 2008; 1,348 in 2009; 1,165 in 2010; 1,085 in 2011; and 1,450 in 2012.
In these nine years, only 250 identified combatants were killed compared to 750 policemen and soldiers.
Hence, even if the insurgency comes to a standstill, it will take about three centuries to wipe out the 9,822 combatant and non-combatant forces.
The authorities and the insurgents should think carefully about the merits and demerits of holding the country hostage to this long-drawn-out violence.
The crux of the problem is a demand for independence.
Though the insurgency movement is far from achieving enough credibility to lead a sovereign state of Pattani, it could continue the senseless killing of people and inflicting damages for an indefinite period.
And there is nothing the government can do about it as long as locals continue sympathising with the insurgents.
Britain's suppression of the Malaya insurgency was one of the few success stories in the last century. In this case, one of the most critical factors for countering the movement was people's rejection of the insurgents. The Malays turned their back on the movement led by Chinese descendants.
Unfortunately, in the South, the insurgents are inseparable from local residents and a number of their leaders are ex-officials of local governments who have opted to part ways with the central government.
Yet, the authorities are proud that over the past nine years, they have been able to cut down the number of red-zone villages from 319 to 176, which means that all but 176 villages are open to the authorities.
However, this so-called success proves nothing really because insurgents have access to all areas, including the heavily fortified government installations, while the authorities are not welcomed at 176 villages.
Peace will remain elusive until the central government and insurgents can work out a solution on political empowerment.
Independence may not be realistic at this juncture, but local residents should be allowed to administer their own affairs, including security measures.