Understanding and sincerity 'lacking' in South

national January 04, 2014 00:00

By Pakorn Puengnetr
The Nation

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Seven governments and six prime ministers over the past decade have failed to restore peace in the mainly Muslim far South as they lacked understanding, unity and 
sincerity in resolving the region’s problems, academics and a commander said yesterday.
The nature of violence in the deep South over the past 10 years was mixed, as it was driven by ideological and non-ideological fighters, said Charan Maruleem, a political 
scientist at Thammasat University.
Those who have an ideological outlook are not purely religious warriors but supporters of mostly Malayu ethnic movements, with some flavour of Islam, he said.
Thai authorities in Bangkok have struggled to contain violence in the deep South since early 2004 when a group of gunmen stole war-grade weapons from a military camp in Narathiwat. 
A spate of violence orchestrated by faceless Muslim separatists and local mafia has claimed close to 5,000 lives so far.
Covert and well-publicised talks between Thai authorities and people claiming to represent the juwae fighters linked to the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) umbrella have failed to help end the violence.
“People at the table [for recent talks] do not represent or have any direct command to the juwae,” Charan said. 
“Violence has never ended since the truce was signed [with Thai authorities] last February.
“Thai authorities also have no flexibility in the talks. What is the point of talking if you don’t want to give anything?” he said. 
The talks relied too much on one organisation and one person, he said, adding that there are too many peace brokers in the South.
Surachart Bamrungsuk of Chualongkorn University’s political science faculty said talks between Thai authorities and the BRN in Malaysia last year were not real peace negotiations. It was just an open dialogue for public relations purposes, he said. 
“The new government after the February 2 election should have a clear strategy to solve the problem in the deep South,” he said.
Former Fourth Army Region commander Samrej Srirai said the country had spent more than Bt200 billion over the past decade but achieved nothing to end the violence. 
Having 50,000-60,000 troops in the deep South to contain the insurgency was too many, he said. 
“I think we should consider reducing the number of troops. I don’t know why we have to use a large number of troops.
“We have many people but don’t know what will happen, or sometimes we know but don’t understand why, and that is the problem.”

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