Monday, October 19, 2009

Abhisit's failing state

Village defense volunteers (Chor Ro Bo) demonstrating their skills at a Buddhist temple in Maigaan (ไม้แก่น) district of Pattani province. August 2009.

In June 2009, at a seminar hosted by the King Prajadhipok’s Institute called “Politics Outweighs the Military: A Solution to Sustainable Peace in Southern Thailand”, Prime Minister Abhisit talked about bringing justice to the Deep South.

He said that the perpetrators of the June 2009 mosque shooting in Narathiwat, “no matter who they are”, would be brought to justice and that this issue is a key point from which to judge the performance of his government.

I would like to now pass judgment on the performance of his government: failed.

Failed misserably might be more accurate.

In regards to the mosque shooting, a warrant was issued a few months ago for a Thai-Buddhist township defense volunteer (Or Ror Bor) named Suthirak Khongsuwan, yet the whole case seems, like every other legal case in the Deep South, to have disappeared without resolution and certainly without justice.

Obviously, Abhisit's bold rhetoric is fundamentally disconnected with the fact that his weak government is beholden to the military.

Worse, the fact that Thai-Buddhist militias, such as the one Suthirak Khongsuwan belonged to, are armed under patronage of the Kingdom's highest institution which ensures that Abhisit's rhetoric is simply rhetoric.

The Nation is reporting today that the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) is not happy about the failure to see justice in the Deep South:

"Four Prime ministers passed by in just two years and all have failed to deliver justice
and really sustainable development as hoped by the Malay Muslims, who are naturally anxious to manage their own affairs," it said.

Implicit in the PULO statement is that the Thai state's failure to deliver justice is a rational for autonomy or separatism.

They may have a point.

Not a single official has been prosecuted for any human-rights violations or killings since the surge of fighting began in 2004. Even the Tak Bai case in which state security forces killed 86 protesters – 76 from mistreatment after being taken into custody – were ‘acting in accordance’ of the law as judged by a Songkhla provincial court.

More worrisome, is that Abhisit's failure is part of a habitual failing of the Thai state that is akin to the symptoms of a failed state.

What exactly is a failed state?

From the Failed States Index: A state that is failing has several attributes. One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes of state failure include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. The 12 indicators cover a wide range of state failure risk elements such as extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalized persecution or discrimination...
From the perspective of the Deep South, the Thai state is clearly bordering on failed state territory.

When a failed state can not provide justice, politically motivated armed groups (separatists) will try to take over the functions of a state as a means of garnering legitimacy in the eyes of locals.

This is already happening.

As reported in Matichon today (sorry, cant find the story on their website but saw a copy of it early), separatists have released their own 'wanted' poster complete with photos and names of the five Thai-Buddhist suspects from the mosque shooting incident. While it does look like a wanted poster for criminals, theirs is titled 'จับตาย' which translates as 'wanted dead'.

Such vigilante actions are a symptom of the Thai state's inability to provide justice.

While I do still appreciate Abhisit's flowery promises of justice, his government has clearly failed to deliver.

Yet the real problem is not simply the current government's failure to provide justice, its the fact that its the sixth year in which the Thai state has failed to provide justice for citizens of the Deep South.

From a southern perspective, the perpetual lack of justice suggests that the Thai state is a failed state in the Deep South.

And that, of course, supports PULO's argument for autonomy or even independence.

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