Chalerm choice shows PM's ignorance of the South

national February 21, 2013 00:00

By Attayuth Bootsripoom

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The flare-up of insurgency attacks in the deep South has worried all sides - although 16 Muslim militants were killed in their failed attack against a Marine base in Narathiwat's Bacho district last week while the marines suffered no casualties.

The authorities seemed to be victorious, but the magnitude of what happened should send shivers down the spines of security agencies. About 50 to 60 insurgents gathered to attack the base and this indicated there were over 100 people in their network as others certainly acted as their coordinators and several more had to watch out for escape routes for the assailants.

Had the militants not been so confident, they would not have launched such a blatant attack. Their confidence was surely influenced by their sentiment that the situation was ripe for them to fight against the authorities.

And just a few days after the killings of the militants, video clips have been widely distributed to portray them as martyrs. Worse still, the authorities were criticised for using excessive force. So the government has been placed on the defensive again and if nothing is done, the killings of the militants could be used to incite more hatred and attacks against the authorities.

Moreover, relatives of the dead militants admitted they knew their relatives were militants but they did not warn or ask them to stop. And the relatives even saw the slain militants as good people.

And a few days later, insurgents launched more attacks in Pattani, heightening the terror atmosphere.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra stayed aloof and distributed the responsibility among her deputies. She claimed she had to be in charge of the overall picture – but she has so far not taken any proactive move to try to solve the problems, apart from waiting for initiatives from officials in charge.

Worse still, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who has been assigned to supervise the deep South, admitted openly he did not want the assignment but had to take it because of the prime minister’s order.

It turned out that after General Yutthasak Sasiprapha was removed as deputy prime minister, the government has no one capable enough to handle the southern situation so Chalerm was picked for the task.

The reluctant Chalerm did not have any initiatives or proactive policies, nor did he propose an operation plan to deal with the current situation. He even showed he was too afraid to visit the three southern border provinces. So far, he has visited the deep South only once and returned empty-handed from his recent trip to Malaysia.

His initial plan to impose curfews in certain areas showed that he was not well informed of the situation as statistics showed most attacks happened during the daytime.

Eventually, Chalerm had to hold a meeting with security agencies and cancelled the curfew plan due to strong opposition from the agencies.

But a few days later, Chalerm proposed the enforcement of the Internal Security Act in the deep South instead of the emergency decree. The ISA is much more lenient than the emergency decree.

His latest move prompted several people to wonder why his stand has changed from black to white in just a few days – from using the strictest law to the most lenient law – although the situation has not yet improved.

It seemed Chalerm has been coming to his own conclusions.

Despite the flared-up insurgency, Chalerm even declined to visit the deep South this week or next, claiming he had to help the Pheu Thai launch election campaigns for the Bangkok governor election. So critics have attacked him for failing to give top priority to the security issues.

And Chalerm’s failures obviously reflect Yingluck’s little care and attention toward the southern situation. Had she really cared, she would not have assigned such an important task to Chalerm.

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