Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gunman kill 11 in Mosque - Media and PM Lose the Plot


Solider at a mosque in Banang Sata District of Yala back in 2007.

Dramatic events with the mosque shooting in the South (BBC story here) and I am not sure if this should be a rant at the pitiful English-language Thai media, criticism over Abhisit's misguided optimism, or a general commentary about the abysmal situation in the Deep South so it will have to be all three.

On the Media:
Specifically the Bangkok Post's lame story Gunmen kill 11 at mosque: Updated

When 'Suspected militants' kill 11 and injure another 12 people it might be a good idea to question who the 'Suspected militants' are.

Are Buddhist militias to blame, is there factional fighting amongst insurgents like the RKK or BRN-C, are villagers striking back at militants, is it a blood feud, was it overzealous village defense volunteers, a business hit, or troops taking revenge for a previous militant attack in the area?

The point is there are a number of possibilities and it is important to get at the truth.

Instead of simply quoting the army spokesman (which i presume they mean 4th Army spokesman) saying "They are trying to make it look like the attackers are the authorities, because Muslims would apparently not shoot inside a mosque. But it's impossible that it is the work of the military,''

Why is it impossible that is it the work of the military? That might be a good starting point for the media to ask because one of the MOST LIKELY sources of well armed and highly mobile attackers who would shoot up a mosque would be some pissed off troops or those who receive weapons and support from the military!

How about ask the villagers, ask the victim's families, ask the bystanders, ask the village defense volunteers, ask other military units, hell, you might even ask the police!

(on a side note, I did call a local resident in Pattani who said villagers blame Thai-Buddhist militants and I tend to believe this theory which leads to the question of whether there will be revenge attacks on Buddhists in the next few weeks...but that is a whole other conversation.)

On PM Abhisit:
Specifically: PM visits Malaysia for talks on southern unrest

"We remain optimistic that things will get a lot better if we continue emphasizing economic development and giving them a better future," he said.

Yes, this was two days before the mosque shooting.

And what misguided whimsical fantasy did Abhisit base his optimism on?

"Let me reiterate that my government's approach is based on the belief that the key to peace and security is justice and opportunities," he said.

If he really believes that then Abhisit has lost the plot of the southern insurgency.

Justice is simply the lowest common denominator that most people can agree upon about the South. Really, who can really argue against justice?

Sure, justice and opportunities (presuming that these are the economic/development type of opportunities) are nice but that is not the southern storyline that the PM should be following.

How about political empowerment or a substantial devolution of state powers that gives southern residents the power to lead and develop their own communities as they see fit?

But I guess Abhisit is following the ultra-conservative military/royalist/bureaucratic fantasy which imagines that 'benevolent' and 'enlightened' leaders should be sent from central Thailand to rule over the 'backwards rural Muslims' and kindly giving them justice and opportunities. How kind of them.

That is an old Thai fantasy and recently appeared, albeit in a lite-version, with the National Reconciliation Commission's report in May 2006 and was most recently and heavily propagated by Surayud's ultimately useless efforts at addressing the southern conflict.

It is a fundamentally flawed fantasy and should no longer be told to the public as some sort of feel good bed-time-story where the situation is really not that bad and some good people will come along and sort this mess up.

On the Abysmal State of the Deep South:

If the Prime Minister doesn't seem to have a clue about the core grievances in the South and the Thai media are largely uninterested in investigating and reporting on events there then the abysmal state of the Deep South is rather implicit.

Yet what is not immediately implicit is that the authorities and the general public seem unprepared to admit the seriousness of the situation in the South and this is a serious harbinger of the future of the conflict.

If the media and the PM have lost the southern plot, then Thai society is years away from grappling with the social and political concessions needed to build a durable and lasting peace.


  1. How about political empowerment or a substantial devolution of state powers that gives southern residents the power to lead and develop their own communities as they see fit?

    Might end up with a bigger problem if the devolution of powers ends up putting power into the hands of those who see killing of teachers as justifiable?

    But you have been down there and I have not, so maybe my hope (along with Abhisit's) for Justice & Opportunities is not enough once religion gets thrown into the mix?

  2. Excellent post, tinged with an element of cynicism/frustration, perhaps! Yes to all the above, as you say if Abhisit thinks throwing cash at the region will make the fundamentalists go away then he is living in dreamland. Anyway as we all know, statements like that are just soundbites, for public consumption and reassurance.

  3. Many thanks for a great post. I agree with you that political empowerment and devolution of centralised power are essential for curbing the violence in the long term. Abhisit knows this, but it is unmentionable, especially within his power clique. I have also blogged on these issues here: http://www.bangkokcrimes.com/2009/06/10/deep-south-violence-redux/


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