Monday, May 1, 2006

The Insecurity Industry

Part of the solution or part of the problem? Heavy militarization has created more problems than solutions. Fourth Army Soldiers - Narrathiwat - 2005.

Although rarely reported, a driving force in the conflict is the insecurity industry.

As peace in the South has been replaced by conflict the traditional economic base has also been replaced by conflict related industries.

The industry of insecurity has become a self-perpetuating economy that benefits and thrives with each bomb, each shooting, and continues to grow in proportion to the violence and the number of soldiers sent to quell the violence.

The insecurity industry might be difficult to encapsulate as a singular concept due to the highly diverse revenue streams that are associated with it but it is possible to draw some simple links between violence and the economy.

The rise of daily violence forces local retail stores to employ security guards, attacks on plantations send agriculture workers to the cities to fill the security guard positions, more soldiers arrive and have disposable income for entertainment, the closure of small industries ensures that entertainment industries have no trouble finding staff, civilians are worried by daily violence so they begin purchasing their own guns, militants need weapons so they begin to fund their insurgency by selling arms to the worried civilians, influential businessmen and politicians use their knowledge of government activites/contracts to extend their economic interests while ensuring that the violent cycle continues by demanding more troops from the central government.

Because the insecurity industry is heavily weighted in illegal industries the aggregate result is increased crime.

Many of the illegal businesses are involved in smuggling, alcohol and drugs, or prostitution and all introduce a higher rate of non-insurgency related violence.

The thriving illegal business environment also demands a high level of corruption and collusion in the police and civil service.

The result of illegal industries has been a serious challenge to law and order and a perceived sense of lawlessness.

The challenge for the government is that local residents feel that law and order has broken down and that the dramatic increase in military strenght has only succeeding in introducing more lawlessness and more violence.

In essence, the massive security apparatus has been associated with the rise of crime and increased lawlessness.

The key part of the equation is that once the varied insecurity industries are running each new explosion and each new soldier is good for business.

For the government to respond to the violence by increasing troop numbers results in a catch-22 that might counter some violence but will also feed the industry that depends upon violence to exist.

The logical way out for the government is for a smaller, less visible, and locally sensitive intelligence organization (exactly the role of the Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Command that Prime Minister Thaksin dismantled) that can address security concerns without itself becoming one of the sources of further insecurity.

Yet Thaksin’s government has so far opted to continue to pour more combat troops into the South.

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