Violence against civilian targets must be condemned

opinion July 31, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

The insurgents in the deep South will get no respect as long as innocent lives are being taken

Violence has continued unabatedly in the southern border region, and one of the disturbing trends is hitting “soft targets”. 
This past Friday the insurgents targeted Yala’s Betong district, considered the most peaceful in the far South because it has experienced no insurgent attack in the decade since violence erupted in the region. 
The car-bomb attack left three people dead and 42 wounded.
Observers said the smaller of two bombs had gone off as a warning that a bigger one was to follow, suggesting that the insurgents were more interested in physical destruction than a high body count. 
Nevertheless, an unarmed building – in this case a hotel – is still a civilian target and, in line with international norms, civilian targets should be avoided entirely. 
After a decade of violence in the Muslim-majority South, no one can say for sure who is behind these almost daily attacks. Fingers have been pointed at Malay separatists, crime syndicates, corrupt officials, local influential figures, politicians – the list goes on. 
But the end result has always been the same. Whether the perpetrators intended to create mayhem or not, thousands of innocent citizens have become victims of their senseless violence. More than 5,000 have been killed and many more injured. 
A sizeable number of the victims are women and children. The number of orphans is growing and the end is nowhere in sight. 
Insurgents should do more to educate themselves about international norms and the rules of engagement if they expect the world to view them and their cause with respect. 
More importantly, they should know that violence only begets violence and that they will have to eventually agree to a political solution with the Thai state, through peaceful negotiation. 
They will have to be realistic about what they can get from the Thai side. Every single Thai constitution, including the current interim charter, has affirmed that “Thailand is one indivisible kingdom”. 
Besides scaring potential tourists and investors away, what the insurgents should realise is that, after a decade of violence, Thais there and everywhere else are sick of violence. And if they continue on the current course, they will be faced with growing condemnation, even from the people they claim to be fighting for. 
More than 40 car bomb attacks have been carried out since 2004. The perpetrators of last Friday's Betong attack deserve condemnation for targeting innocent people, whether the crime was aimed at destroying the local economy or promoting the separatist cause. 
The National Human Rights Commission condemned the use of violence that it deemed to be in violation of those rights. 
“The use of violence is barbarous, heartless, brutal and inhuman. It is against the law and the principle of any religion,” the commission said in a statement released after the Betong attack.
For people who really love their motherland, it is senseless to kill fellow citizens, burn down their homes and businesses, and bomb their neighbourhoods in order to push for a cause. 
They should know that they can never win anyone’s heart or mind through such methods. Because if they continue to kill innocent people, the number of sympathisers will only dwindle and the number of those who hate them will only grow.
But, for the dialogue to take root, the Thai state must provide the needed forum so the voices of Muslims in the South can be heard. If they are not convinced their voices are being heard and believe no one is taking them seriously, we can be sure the campaign of violence will continue.