Friday, August 28, 2009

Guns, guns, guns


Traveling with the the Aor Sor (อส) militia in Maigaan (ไม้แก่น) district of Pattani province. August 16, 2009

Its nice to see some needed scrutiny in the media over the proliferation of small arms and militias in Southern Thailand lately.

The photo above I took last week while traveling the Ministry of Interior's Aor Sor militia.

Notably, most of the militia members didnt wear uniforms or travel in a vehicle with any official markings. Tennis shoes, mismatched military surplus pants, and pick up trucks with tinted windows but no insignia or markings to identify them. But they were well armed with M-16 and shinny new M4A1 assault rifles.

Professor Marc Askew, who spends a substantial amount of time in the southern border provinces, has been focusing on the issue of how non-insurgent violence makes up a surprisingly high percentage of southern violence.

It is common knowledge among people in the violence-wracked deep South that much of the killing that punctuates daily life stems not just from insurgents' much-publicised military campaign against the state, but from personal disputes and local political rivalries. This lethal mix makes the region a highly complex killing field."

The rest of the worth-reading article in the Bangkok Post is here.

And while fixing a percentage of violence upon general criminality vs. insurgency is both difficult and controversial there is little doubt that the proliferation of arms and militias are a contributing factor to frequency of violence in the south.

The recent killing of 12 worshipers in the mosque in Narathiwat is a prime example. The rumor is that an arrest warrant is out for a 34 year old Thai Buddhist militia member but the fact that his militia is under certain royal patronage will likely prevent justice from ever seeing the case.

And the complicated divide between insurgency and criminality is currently taking place during this month's Ramadan in the South.

There has been a spike in the number of violent incidents and accentuated by the car bombing in Narathiwat on Tuesday. Suggestions by the military are being put forth that the recent violence is attributed to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in which insurgents might be seeking to make a violent statement to mark the holiday.

Alternatively, the Tambon Administrative Organization or TAO elections are being held and, as insiders know and Marc Askew has highlighted, such elections are often marked by political killings.

Either way - insurgency or criminality - the flood of guns and militias are certain to feed into the complicated and intractable configuration of the southern insurgency.

For more on this topic see Rule by the Gun by Nonviolence International and the International Crisis Group's influential report The Problem with Paramilitaries.

Photo of the day: Ramadan at the Pattani Central Mosque

* All images copyright *

Ramadan and the Central Mosque in Pattani City. August 26, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Greetings from beautiful Pattani - Wish you were here!

Although I will continue to highlight my (infrequent) blog postings with images that focus on the violent nature of the southern insurgency, it should be remembered that, of course, life largely goes on as usual for local residents.

And, the province of Pattani is a beautiful place with a rich and vibrant culture.

So instead of the usual images of soldiers and politics, here are some photos from my weekend in Pattani province.