- - 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

NEGOTIATION: Talks with separatists being overplayed

Published on May 25, 2004 - The high degree of enthusiasm from Thai political leaders over a recent statement from Wan Kadir Che Man suggests that the government is either ignorant about the Muslim separatist movement or just looking to score cheap political points by showing that they are open-minded enough to talk to the opposite side.

Observers said the "knee-jerk" statements from the top leaders, including Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Defence Minister Chettha Thanajaro, welcoming negotiations with Wan Kadir showed a lack of diplomatic finesse and intelligence in the handling of the problem in the deep South.

In an interview with The Nation and two other Bangkok-based journalists late last week, Wan Kadir admitted that he himself did not have control over the military actions of the separatist groups, which may or may not have been behind the latest wave of killings that erupted in southern Thailand in December 2001 and has continued unabated till now.

The 62-year-old native of Narathiwat, who gets around with a walking stick, has for years been one of the key symbolic figures in the Thai-Malay Muslim separatist movement.

He has devoted a great deal of his life to raising awareness about the plight of the ethnic Malay-Muslims in the deep South.

Wan Kadir is the leader of Bersatu, an umbrella organisation whose members include the likes of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo), the New Pulo, and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN). He said he was appointed because of his good standing in academic circles and the international community.

However, he himself has pointed out that Bersatu is not an organisation with control over military action by its members.

This begs the question as to why the Thai government appears to be putting all its eggs into Wan Kadir's basket.

Security analysts and intelligence officers have said that by playing up the latest development and prematurely raising expectations that the violence will disappear, Thaksin may be digging his own grave. The crunch will come if the killings of government security forces in the deep South continue unabated.

Chetta has said Wan Kadir could help Thailand by ordering the insurgents to stop their attacks. But the Bersatu leader himself has said he cannot offer any such guarantee because he has no control over the armed groups.

From the kind of spin being churned out by the government, it would seem that false hope is better than no hope at all, even if it comes at the expense of misleading the public.

Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, security experts have said that Thailand's political leadership has failed to demonstrate that it understands the complex nature of international terrorism, or global jihad. Bangkok's stance on the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was filled with ambiguity over fears of upsetting Muslim voters.

Already there is a rift in the government. Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has suggested that the government may be moving too fast with the negotiations. There is no need for internationalising the issue, he said.

But it appears that there is no stopping Chettha, who has effectively stolen the spotlight from Chavalit.

Security experts have suggested that instead of putting all their eggs in one basket, Bangkok should reach out directly to the separatist organisations, which have a much more solid command and political structure. These include the BRN, the Pulo and the New Pulo, all of whose political and command structures are intact.

And instead of charging to the negotiating table, there have been suggestions that perhaps Thailand should also quietly consult the Malaysian government over the pace and direction of such negotiations.

After Malaysia's statement that it was ready to open its arms to Thai nationals fleeing the violence in the aftermath of the April 28 killings of 108 ethic Malay-Muslim insurgents, it's difficult to believe that Kuala Lumpur will stand by without any role whatsoever in any upcoming discussions between Wan Kadir, or any other separatist organisations with connections to Malaysia, and the Bangkok government.

For the time being, however, Kuala Lumpur is keeping mum on what role it is able or willing to play.

Don Pathan

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