Trouble in Thailand

PRIME Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand has some serious explaining to do. The carnage unleashed by his forces in the country's south killing hundreds of separatist Muslims is shocking, to say the least.

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Published: Fri 30 Apr 2004, 11:16 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:08 AM

Bangkok claims that the Muslim youths were shot dead when they attacked 15 police and military posts in an attempt to seize weapons. However, the massive and completely one-sided violence demonstrates that there is more to this crackdown than meets the eye. It is clear the Thai forces were bent on eliminating these so-called insurgents. There were no attempts to capture or negotiate a surrender by the rebels, if at all they had come all prepared to snatch weapons. The fact that the Thai troops killed dozens of people who had been praying or taken shelter in a mosque proves that the whole exercise was pre-planned and stage-managed. Thailand has had a long history of trouble in its south. The Muslim-dominated Yala, Pattani, Songkhla and Narathiwat provinces of the Buddhist country are geographically and culturally close to Malaysia and Indonesia. There has been a genuine separatist movement in these parts of the country.

Over six million Muslims have been struggling for decades seeking independence from the Buddhist monarchy. In the past, there have been several instances of armed uprising against the government in Bangkok. Recently, there were some attempts by neighbouring Malaysia to help strike a peace deal between the Thai government and the separatists. However, Thaksin's high-handed tactics have not been of great help to the cause of peace. Shooting down young Muslims is not going to rid Thailand of its separatist problem. But, then violence comes naturally to this government. The same regime recently supervised the massacre of some 2,000 so-called criminals across Thailand, in the face of muted protests from overseas.

While some analysts are tempted to compare Thaksin's brutal antics to a certain Sharon, others (including Bangkok) have tended to generalise this episode as part of ubiquitous international terrorism. This is completely unjustified and patently unreasonable. It is more of a separatist problem, a manifestation of popular unrest and a reaction to unjust policies of the government in Bangkok. Thaksin's methods and his insensitivity - he disbanded a task force for dealing with southern problems when he came to power - have only fuelled the Muslim unrest. The prime minister would do better to take help from his fellow-leaders in Malaysia and Indonesia and find a peaceful solution to the problem.

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