- - Can the Canadian model offer a solution for southern Thailand?
- - Running out of ideas in the South
- Southern militants have scant desire to negotiate
- Thailand should just accept that South is different
- Malaysian PM's visit to show up lack of deep South action
- Najib may have some answers to deep South problems
- Still a long battle ahead in the quest for peace in the South
- Too many cooks spoiling the broth
- Seeing things from a different perspective
- Peace in the South demands historical recognition
- New ideas necessary to resolve deep South crisis
- Massacre probe must provide answers
- Money goes to waste in the deep South
- A long way to go before peace is possible in the South
- Patani Malay separatists at a crossroads
- Anupong's remarks may add fuel to the fire in the South
- Military alone cannot solve problems in the deep South
- Anupong's remarks may add fuel to the fire in the South
- Let's not allow mosque attack to derail peace bid
- South policy still lacks understanding
- Hard line lingers on the deep South
- Malays strive to keep alive the spirit of the kris
- Different approach needed in the deep South
- No one wants to live under colonial rule
- When will we really understand the South?
- Abhisit right to put the South on the agenda
- Can the Democrats stand up to the Army tactics in the South
- How long can we ignore the deep South?
- No time for complacency in the South
- The South is a long way from Bangkok
- Unofficial talks may fan the flames of insurgency
- Is Chavalit fostering false hope in the deep South?
- Analysis :Ceasefire in south is just too good to be true
- Pornthip means well, but she misunderstands the south
- Army's abuses come home to roost in South
- Deep south insurgency puts strain on thai-malay relations
- In the South, the media, too, must think outside the box
- Lessons from the southern insurgency not learned
- Insurgents make it clear there is no neutral ground
- BANGKOKIAN: Odd silence on south
- Political rumblings in the deep South
- No progress in checking unrest
- Hope for the southern poor
- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
- 'Pushing people towards the insurgents'
- Analysis :Premier has wasted opportunity in South
- Crisis in south rooted in ethnic Malay identity
- Bombs 'like those in Bangkok'
- Schools aim to rise from ashes
- Harsh realities mar peace efforts in South
- Scars of Krue Se bloodbath refuse to go away
- Off-the-wall comments, suggestions have not helped
- Anti-terror effort needs closer cooperation: Nitya
- Old separatists still dream of a free patani
- Mahathir: Talk with exiled South leaders
- Military to enforce ban on public gatherings
- Rewards dropped for the arrest of militants - South to get 3,000 more troops after violence escalates
- Pulo alleges targeted killings
- 'Talks vital to restore peace in the South'
- No end in sight to violence in south - PREMIER'S FIRST BORDER TOUR: Surayud apologises for govt's abuses in South
- Government reaches out to the South
- The long road to peace in the deep South
- Just a local affair or prelude to terrorism?
- Insurgency 'has crossed a new threshold'
- South an elusive 'spider's web' for generals
- Southeast Asia the second front of global terror?
- Sonthi makes a needed overture in the South
- Southern blasts clear way for army plans
- Soldier killed by bomb in Narathiwat
- Volunteer shot dead in South
- Force alone won't win battle with insurgents
- Six dead in series of bombings, shootings in Yala, Narathiwat
- South militants number 3,000
- Army chief 'welcome in restive South'
- Push for Sondhi to boost his role
- Bombs, bullets kill 3 on weekend
- Bombings spark a scramble for excuses
- Don't make us your scapegoat: Malaysia
- Lull ends in savage wave of 44 blasts
- Admin body urged for South
- What chance of reconciliation in the South?
- More arrests in teachers' assault case
- Troubled school gets 20 teachers
- Letter from KUCHING REUPAH
- South militancy has been years in making
- More held over brutal beating of 2 teachers
- Army 'must respond quicker'
- 3 arrests over hostage taking
- Hopelessly adrift in the stormy south
- HOSTAGE TAKING: Army's image takes beating
- Juling's vision of peace
- RESTIVE SOUTH: 100 schools to shut for a week

ANALYSIS: Thaksin’s blame game backfires

Published on December 23, 2004 - He sought votes by accusing KL, Jakarta – but at what cost?

The government has again employed the classic tactic of blaming neighbours for its failure to contain the violence in the deep South.

But history might just repeat itself, as such finger-pointing has a high cost in the form of diplomatic strife with Malaysia and Indonesia.

For the local audience ahead of the general election, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra publicly alleged that Malaysia’s jungles serve as a training ground for Islamic militants who have fanned smouldering violence that has killed more than 500 people since the beginning of this year. He implied that this is the main reason why his government still can’t fix the problems in the border provinces.

The blame-game has served him well, as seen in his early days in office when he accused Burma and the Wa army of flooding Thailand with methamphetamine and other forms of illicit drugs.

The tactic sparked a diplomatic rift with Rangoon, and it took two years until the two sides could kiss and make up – but not before using up a tremendous amount of political as well as financial capital. The premier had promised billions of dollars in cheap credit to the ruling junta.

On Saturday, Thaksin once again resorted to old tricks by accusing Malaysia’s northern state of Kelantan of being a breeding ground for the militants behind the spate of killings in Thailand’s Muslim South.

Thaksin next trained his guns on Indonesia, suggesting that the world’s largest Islamic country – which prides itself on its moderation and democratic aspirations – was the source of inspiration for the Thai Muslim militants.

Jakarta shot back and demanded solid proof from the Thai government.

Despite saying the government has received good cooperation from both Muslim nations, Thaksin knew his sensitive remarks would anger Malaysia and Indonesia, though he underestimated the degree of this anger.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said he has sent the full text of Thaksin’s statement to Malaysia, hoping that Kuala Lumpur would understand why he had to say what he said. There is no intention to spoil the country’s relations with Malaysia, Surakiart said.

In his attempt to back away gracefully from the heated debate, Thaksin shifted the blame to the press, saying his statement was distorted and presented out of context. He never explained how.

But it was too little and too late. The boomerang swung back and hit him smack in the forehead – Deputy Interior Minister Sutham Saengprathum unleashed his own rage and kept going until Thaksin shut him up.

Sutham claimed to have pictures to back up Thaksin’s insinuation and accused Malaysia of refusing to hunt down the insurgents or feel obligated to force them back to Thailand. Some local Malaysian officials even helped to hide the Thai-Muslim insurgents, he said.

Indeed, if Thaksin shot himself in the foot, Sutham cut his entire leg off.

Analysts said Thailand’s blame game stems from the need for Thaksin to find a scapegoat for the violence in the South.

And while the allegations against Indonesia and Malaysia were mainly for domestic consumption, Thaksin never thought that it would cause such an international stir. After all, these two countries have been at the forefront of the global war on terrorism, arresting scores of Jemaah Islamiyah suspects over the past three years in connection with major bombing incidents.

It didn’t cross his mind that the two countries didn’t necessarily see the violence in Thailand’s deep South the same way he did.

Moreover, it didn’t cross his mind that the state of Thai intelligence is way below par.

The evidence collected by Thai intelligence agencies and sent to Malaysian authorities, as seen by The Nation, provided very basic biodata – names of suspects and blurry pictures of them and their spouses, parents and relatives.

But none of these materials offered any convincing evidence linking the suspects to the southern violence. Past experience has shown that Malaysia will cooperate if it deems that the evidence it has is solid and sound – as in the capture of Haji Daoh Thanam.

Another point that Thaksin overlooked is that residents of the Thai-Malaysian border area see themselves as one community divided by an artificial border, a legacy of the colonial era.

And because the area is deemed to be the stronghold of the opposition Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS), Kuala Lumpur will definitely think twice before making any move that could further drive the local community away from the ruling Umno.

The bungling over this past week has many scratching their heads. There is a growing concern that the finger-pointing could be harmful to regional unity.

Indeed, just about every country in the region has to deal with some form of insurgency – whether locally inspired or linked to terrorist organisations with global reach.

And by putting the violence in the South in a regional context, Thaksin was rudely awoken to the fact that he can’t just make allegations and walk away from them. He also has to back them up.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

© 2005 Nation Multimedia Group
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