View of Narathiwat from a Black Hawk helicopter. November 12, 2009.
(This post was originally called 'fisking Anupong' until it was brought to my attention that there is another definition for fisking...who knew?!)
I personally don’t like unpacking questionable statements and articles in the news because it is time consuming.
Yet sometimes, an article is so littered with politician’s blatant lies and journalistic incompetence that it simply begs to be deconstructed.
The Bangkok Post’s recent article Army takes a hard line with rebels is a case in point:
PATTANI : The army has shot down a call to negotiate with insurgents to end conflicts in the restive South.
Army chief Anupong Paojinda said no talks would be held with separatist groups during his tenure, which ends in September next year. "We won't negotiate with them. But we will take legal action against them," he told the Bangkok Post.
NS: Anupong is simply lying, negotiations have been an ongoing, but largely a secretive process, since Surayud was installed as Prime Minister.
"They have to be brought to trial for having murdered innocent people," said Gen Anupong, who accompanied Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on a trip to inspect government development projects in Pattani and Narathiwat last week.
NS: In this context, the Royal Thai Army also needs to be “brought to trial for having murdered innocent people” considering the long list of victims in the Tak Bai incident or prominent cases like Iman Yapa.
Gen Anupong was reacting to calls by Puea Thai chairman Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to negotiate with separatist groups to end the violence.
Gen Chavalit has also proposed an amnesty for militants in the three Muslim-dominated provinces.
Since violence resurfaced in the region six years ago, it has claimed almost 4,000 lives.
The Internal Security Operations Command believes 8,000-10,000 insurgents are active in the deep South. The insurgents took shelter in more than 200 villages in the so-called red zone and used pondok schools as a base to carry out attacks against civilians and state officials, it said.
"The insurgents want to separate our land and set up an autonomous area," the army chief said.
NS: This is a serious problem on two levels. If it is a translation problem then it is simply shoddy reporting by the Bangkok Post. But if it is what Anupong said, it is still shoddy reporting because he is clearly obfuscating issues and a professional journalist should have questioned this or at least qualified it by stating in the next sentence that Anupong was either confused or being purposely deceptive.
As for Anupong, and taking that he actually meant what he said, he is simply being a shifty liar. Separatism and autonomy are very different issues. Separatism would result in an independent state while an autonomous area would not violent the ‘one and unitary’ condition of the constitution, would not divide the nation (แบ่งชาติ), and would simply devolve local governance powers and decision making to the border provinces….much like Bangkok enjoys.
They carried out attacks to draw international attention to their "plight".
But the army leader said that the southern violence was a domestic issue that could be solved by the government alone.
NS: International attention is not exactly a major factor in southern militants’ tactics, but it is a major fear of Thai elites who are ever fearful that their prolonged incompetence in addressing the southern conflict will ultimately draw in the international community. But, this quote does allow Anupong to repeat the standard line that ‘conflict is a domestic issue’ and everyone should simply forget about it.
No other countries, including fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, had offered themselves as brokers in talks between the government and the separatist groups.
NS: It is common knowledge that Malaysia (while not an honest broker as they are a stakeholder in the conflict) and Indonesia have offered to broker talks.
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia plans to tour the three southernmost provinces with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva early next month. The trip is intended as a show of Malaysian support for Thailand's efforts to tackle the violence.
NS: WTF?! Is this article an opinion piece from the self-deluded Nation or Manager? Malaysia might support the military’s declarations that they will not violent human rights but the Malaysian PM is certainly accountable to his own constituents who are critical of the Thai military’s heavy handed tactics. In addition, Razak floated the idea of autonomy which flip-flopper Abhisit initially supported but has since backtracked on. But really, the key point of the trip by Razak will be to show his constituents that he is pressuring Thailand to treat the Malay-Muslim minority in the Deep South with some dignity and respect for their rights and CERTAINLY NOT as a show of support.
Gen Anupong said no Asean members would interfere in the southern issue. NS: Yes, we got the message already, an internal issue. The army had no plan to withdraw troops from the area. There are 20,000 soldiers, 18,000 police and 40,000 defence volunteers providing security for two million people in the deep South.
NS: This is more complicated given the number of irregular troops.
As i understand it, it is higher and goes like this:
In addition to the 20,000 soldiers and 18,000 police there are 50, 000 village defence volunteers (ชรบ), 10,000 rangers (ทหานพราน), 20,000 defense corps (อรบ) and 6,000 Or Sor (อส which are well armed troops who are full time paid soldiers under command of the Ministry of Interior and the only ‘volunteer’ part of their work is that they are not conscripted). This total of armed state-sanctioned forces is at about 124,000 depending on a couple of variations. This rough works out to 1 state-armed person per 20 residents in the Deep South.
"We will not abandon people to live alone. Without us, how could they survive?" Gen Anupong said.
NS: Who is he abandoning and who would not survive? Clearly it is not the 80% Malay-Muslim population that he is talking about but the 20% Thai-Buddhist population and these kind of black and white comments are simply pandering to the nation by employing empty but emotional nationalist rhetoric.
He had told border officials to keep a close watch on people with dual Thai-Malaysian nationality as he believed many were involved in attacks in the deep South.
Security experts believe militants with dual nationality carry out attacks there, then flee to neighbouring Malaysia to avoid being caught.
NS: Case in point of the nonsense about Malaysian PM going to show ‘support for Thailand's efforts’. If Razak was supportive of Thai efforts then he would cooperate at the border on security issues and take action against suspected militants retreating into Malaysia.
The question of how to tackle assailants with dual Thai-Malaysian nationality will be tabled for talks between the two leaders when Mr Najib is visiting here, officials say.
Gen Anupong also criticised "the Pattani model" pushed by Gen Chavalit as a solution to the violence.
Gen Chavalit has proposed a form of elected self-government for the region, similar to the way Bangkok is run.
He says the government is deliberately misinterpreting his call as advocacy for an independent Pattani state, which he opposes.
NS: Yes, certainly. As Anupong did above and I mentioned here, it will be easy for the opposition to misrepresent what autonomy is.
He was not proposing separatism, just self-government. Gen Anupong, however, said the details were still unclear and had led to misunderstanding among southern residents.
" I don't understand exactly what Gen Chavalit is advocating. Further discussions are needed. I believe he has a hidden agenda," he said.
NS: More obfuscating the issues and simple lies by Anupong. ‘A hidden agenda’? Obviously it is a clear agenda to flummox Abhisit’s embattled and ineffective government. But what might be ‘hidden’ is potential long term solution to the intractable southern insurgency.