Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Politicians need to keep quiet for sake of peace in South


(Bangkok Post - The government's proposed "politics guiding military" strategy in dealing with the southern insurgency is being called into question.

Critics say the strategy's meaning should be clearly defined to ensure a proper understanding by agencies before its implementation.

They said the slogan could be exploited by the government and politicians to win public backing for the strategy without practical action. If a huge budget is involved, the military would also stand to benefit in a big way.

The "politics guiding military" policy may have tasted success in fighting communism in the 1980s but the current "war" in the South is different.

Without addressing the southerners' basic human rights and, more importantly, recognising their aspirations, sustainable peace in the region should not be expected.

However, if the law is not strictly enforced in the three southernmost border provinces, the situation is not going to improve either.

So we need the military presence to remain strong in the region and the politicians to stay quiet as they have not made any positive contribution to the region for several years. Where the rule of law cannot prevail, security authorities must deal seriously with the insurgents to restore peace and stability.

But those in charge of security should not encourage a heavy-handed approach.

"As long as the southerners have trust in the judicial system, they will back the state. But if they are not certain that justice could be delivered, they will become allies of the insurgents," said a judge with experience in the southern provinces.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda has made it clear the "politics guiding military" policy was not being introduced to negotiate with the insurgents.

However, some scholars have advised agencies that they should explore other ideas that could help complete the jigsaw puzzle, including talks with groups sympathising with the militants.

Certainly, who to talk to is the key question for those advocating talking.

Officers with different hats now seem to agree on one basic fact: That unless the root cause of the problem is recognised, the government cannot easily address the anti-Siam attitudes and separatism.

But where to start? The local people don't seem to have much faith in the Democrat Party, but do believe in Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who once said the area should be made a special administration zone.

Last week, Malaysia's Task Force 2010 chief, Datuk Wan Abu Bakar Omar, suggested that the Organisation of Islamic Conference might be the best body if Thailand was looking for external help to quell the insurgency.

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