Thai’s plan to develop restive south doomed to fail, political solution the way to go: Report

KUALA LUMPUR: The Thai government’s plan to pursue a development policy in the country’s restive south will not bring an end to the longstanding armed conflict centred there, said a top-selling Thai newspaper.

In a hard-hitting editorial published on Saturday, English daily The Nation said failure seek a political solution to the ongoing insurgency would doom any plans for development in the country’s deep south.

“Development for the sake of development is not a bad idea especially for a region that has not received its fair share of government allocations. From infrastructure to education, the Muslim-majority far South has long been neglected by the state.

“The fact that there is an ongoing separatist insurgency makes it even harder to develop the area in the same manner as other regions in the country.

“But if development projects are undertaken to satisfy security needs, the military and policy planners should not be surprised if they fail to achieve the desired outcome.”

The Nation said past and present Thai governments had merely paid lip service to the need for a political approach and continued to use military force in an effort to quell the insurgency.

“It is a self-evident fact that a political solution is the only way to go. But our leaders get caught up in their desire to get even, to punish separatists, their sympathisers and supporters simply because they refuse to go along with our policy of assimilation.

“Authorities have often talked about justice but not a single security officer in these past 13 years, since the current wave of insurgency began, has been punished for any crime – even in the most obvious cases that called for criminal charges.

“It is intriguing that local and international human rights organisations have documented so many violations but none of them has been dealt with seriously by the government.”

The newspaper also poured cold water on the Thai government’s plan to establish a safety zone in southern Thailand, saying there was no guarantee that the area would be free from attacks and violence.

“The idea is being cooked up by Thai negotiators and the MARA Patani, an umbrella organisation of long-standing separatist groups who are yet to convince the government in Bangkok that they have sufficient control on the ground to make any difference.

“It sounds good and rosy but the initiative ignores one major obstacle; MARA Patani is not in a position to guarantee that the insurgents will not carry out attacks, because they have virtually no control over the militants on the ground and the one group that does – the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – is not a part of the dialogue process.”

The Nation said MARA Patani’s irrelevance in the peace talks meant that violence on the ground would continue unabated.

“The idea here is to keep talking to them to give the general public and the world the impression that Bangkok is engaging in efforts for a peaceful solution and it’s really up to the BRN to come to the table.

“The thinking in Bangkok is that the group risks losing the support of villagers and the insurgents by sitting out the peace talks.

“Needless to say, such an official approach is shallow and unnecessarily puts lives at stake.”

Over 6,500 people have been killed and almost 12,000 were injured between 2004 and 2015 in a formerly ethnic separatist insurgency, which has since been taken over by hardline jihadis.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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