Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Accidental ‘Jihadist’

* all photos copyright*

Military check stop in Yala in August.

Despite often criticizing military policy in the southern border provinces for their heavy-handed and human rights violating habits, there is a genuine effort to win the people's hearts and minds.

The soldiers in the South are usually friendly, polite, and working hard to both do their jobs and keep themselves safe.

Yet the notoriety of past events like Tak Bai keep coming back to dismiss efforts to win hearts and minds.

More troublesome is the possibility that the military's violent antics will start to attract regional or even global jihadists to the cause.

From Philip Golingai:

"In my interviews (three 12-minute prison visits) with Muhammad Fadly, he related that Ustaz Muhammad, a secretive religious teacher in his early 30s, had convinced him to slip into southern Thailand to help Thai Muslims oppressed by the government.

The final year mechanical industry student believed the ustaz after watching video footage of the massacre in Tak Bai, a Thai border town on Malaysia-Thailand border, where 78 Thai Muslim protesters – who were packed like sardines – died of suffocation and injuries while being transported in military trucks on Oct 25, 2004.

Thai authorities are often very worried about internationalizing the southern conflict as they fear increased attention from the international community would ultimately lead to calls for international intervention.

But this is certainly another type of international attention that Thailand could best do without.

And, of course, it is just another in a long line of reasons for the military to maintain strict adherence to the country's laws and international conventions on human rights.

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