MUSLIM HATE IN THAILAND
Female genital cutting in Thailand's south
FGM is a rising cultural practice in southern Thailand and, with little regulation, concerns are at an all-time high.
02 Apr 2015
Yala, Thailand - "Just a little," Dr Patimoh Umasa says, pinching the
tip of her finger showing how she cuts the clitorises of small girls.
Dr Umasa runs a small clinic on Yala's main drag, just down the street
from a bombed-out building, near the edge of the Muslim quarter.
As one of the few female doctors in the city, she is the one everyone
goes to for sunat - the practice of female circumcision, which the
World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies as female genital mutilation
"Just an incision to leak some blood, no excision of flesh," Dr Umasa
says, using her grey cat, asleep at the clinic reception, to
demonstrate the way she holds the girls still before she cuts them.
"It takes three people, see? The mother holds the baby up here for
comfort, and an assistant holds the legs open like this," she says,
spreading the cat's legs apart and pinning them down to the counter.
She adds: "And then with my left hand I spread the labia, and with my right hand I pull back the clitoral hood, and slice."
Umasa uses a sterile size-11 surgical blade, and performs the procedure for free, because she says its a religious procedure.
"The babies cry," she says, "but not much. They don't have any lasting health complications."
Like others, Dr Umasa believes that the procedure, if done by a doctor, should not be considered mutilation.
"If it's done by a trained doctor, they are using the right technique, then never mind!"
In the past, traditional birth attendants performed sunat on the newborn baby girls a few days after birth.
Wamae Tahe is a 65-year-old retired midwife who says in the 23 years
she worked in Yala, she performed sunat on almost all female babies
whose births she attended.
"But now babies are born in the hospital, so I no longer do cutting,
because mothers are afraid to have it done at home," she says.
"It's important to be careful and not hurt the baby's vagina! But I
wasn't concerned that I was harming the baby. They cried a little, but
it must be done."
She says on two occasions she performed the procedure on girls over the age of 18, which she said made her very nervous.
Off the radar
Dr Umasa says she performs anywhere between 10 and 20 procedures a
month, and the figure is rising as women increasingly give birth in
The practice of female genital cutting in southern Thailand is
virtually undocumented, and the prevalence is unknown as there is no
reliable data available. But Dr Umasa believes it is universally
Dr Sudarat Teeraworn is a maternal health supervisor for the department
of public health in Yala province, and she says the issue of female
genital mutilation is completely off the Thai Health Ministry's radar.
Adding to this, Dr Teeraworn says, it's just simply not a topic of
discussion: many women do not even know if they are "cut" since most of
the procedures are performed during infancy.
"There are no laws or regulations surrounding the practice, and the
Health Ministry doesn't say anything about it or study it because it's
not harmful - it's a cultural phenomenon. If it's cultural and not
harmful, then what can we do about it?"
Dr Teeraworn says there have been no prevalence studies done in
Thailand, but believes the prevalence in border provinces is probably
similar to the FGM's prevalence in Malaysia.
An unpublished study conducted in 2011 by the University of Malaya's
department of preventive medicine in Malaysia found that 93 percent of
Muslim women in Malaysia have undergone the procedure.
Though not comprehensive, the numbers for Kelantan state, which borders Thailand, are similar.
The cutting that occurs in Malaysia is similar to the process described
by Dr Umasa in southern Thailand. It falls under type IV of the WHO's
classification system - the least invasive type, typically done without
Malaysia's highest religious authority issued a fatwa, an Islamic legal
edict, in 2009 making the cutting procedure required for all Muslim
women, unless "harmful".
Many religious leaders in Malaysia, like their counterparts in
Thailand, believe the procedure as practised there is so minimally
invasive that it should not be called mutilation.
Saira Shameem, who works with the United Nations Population Fund, says
the process is never harmless, and the WHO created the type IV category
specifically to include the practices in countries like Malaysia.
Because there is such a variety of practices of increasing
invasiveness, she says any sort of cutting on a woman's genitals, no
matter how small, is harmful and should not be done.
Malaysia's fatwa does not define the procedure, and Shameem says health
officials are trying to work that avenue to change the practice to a
more symbolic one.
"In order to prevent the procedure from becoming more extensive, we are
trying to persuade the Ministry of Health to replace it as currently
practicsed with cleansing with an alcohol swab," she says, referring to
a routine examination typically performed by obstetricians at birth.
The fatwa poses a dilemma for medical professionals caught between
their unwillingness to violate WHO guidelines, and parents who feel
pressure to have their daughters cut.
But Shameem says doctors can play a big part in the transition to eradicating the behaviour.
"We don't have as much influence and control over traditional
practitioners as doctors, so if you're talking about effectively
eradicating the procedure, working through the medical system with
doctors would shift the practice more quickly," Shameem said.
The religious and social pressure to have a baby girl cut in Thailand
works on practitioners as well. As retired midwife Tahe explained, "If
parents come to me to ask me to do it, I can't say 'no'. Can I?"
Accessing 'red zones'
Julia Lalla-Maharajh is the CEO of Orchid Project, a London-based organisation that advocates against female genital mutilation.
She says the biggest problem they face is massive information gaps.
"There is very little data or evidence about the practice outside of
African countries, and this is something we absolutely need to
address," she says.
"We cannot show how urgent and important this issue is, so we would
urge organisations around the world to really keep asking the
questions: Is [female genital cutting] happening in your country, and
what can be done about it?"
Dr Teeraworn says she and her health teams have no access to so-called
red zones in Thailand's conflict-stricken south, areas where bombings
and attacks occur regularly.
She is unable to directly supervise health stations there.
Thailand's deep south was part of the independent Malay Pattani
sultanate some 200 years ago,and the practice of sunat dates back to
Today, ethnic Malay Muslims who inhabit the region speak Bahasa Melayu
and consider themselves to be culturally Malay, though they are Thai
Since 2004, over 6,000 people have died in sporadic bombings and
attacks that are part of a violent insurgency, which has an apparent
but unclear demand for increased autonomy.
Imam Abdullah Abu-Bakr of the Committee of Islamic Council of Yala says
Muslims in the south are more observant than their co-religionists in
Bangkok, because there are more foreign-educated imams and fewer
distractions, such as the entertainment hub of Bangkok.
He himself was educated in Syria and Malaysia.
Thailand's fatwa committee has not issued a fatwa surrounding the
practice of sunat, but Imam Abdullah says everybody knows the practice
is required for boys, typically in a public ceremony around age seven,
and though is not absolutely required of women, it is something all
women should do.
He says the way it is currently practised is not harmful, and is key to a Muslim's cultural identity.
"You must peel a banana before you can eat it," Abu-Bakr says, "and for
women, it will reduce their wildness, making them clean and strong."
Thailand's secessionist Muslim insurgency escalates
Oct 20, 2012
On a hot spring day, the roads and dirt alleys of the predominantly
Muslim province seem quiet, even abandoned. Groups of schoolchildren,
the girls in headscarves and the boys in starched uniforms, walk
together along the side of the road. Inside some of the small,
makeshift houses, men watch football matches on satellite television.
The quietness would be temporary. On September 21, a group of men
appeared on the streets and began spraying machine-gun fire into a
shop. As a crowd gathered in the aftermath of the shooting, a car bomb
hidden nearby was detonated, killing six people and wounding at least
These types of brutal attacks have become routine in this province. On
a daily basis, groups of heavily armed men attack local officials,
police, soldiers, teachers and any Muslim they believe is not adhering
strictly enough to Islamic values. The insurgents explode homemade
bombs, climb onto school buses and strafe children with gunfire. Those
believed to sympathise with the national government are sometimes
decapitated, their headless bodies left in public places, along with
warnings to obey a strict form of Islam.
This is Pattani in southern Thailand, just a few hundred kilometres
from Phuket and the idyllic international beach resorts of Thailand's
west coast. In the country's deep south, where three Muslim-majority
provinces abut Malaysia, a brutal insurgency between local Muslim
militants who want a separate state and the Buddhist-dominated Thai
army and paramilitary forces has raged for over a decade now. (Thailand
is roughly 95 per cent Buddhist, but Buddhists are a minority in the
three southern provinces.)
Since the war began in earnest in 2001, more than 5,000 people have
been killed, and about 11,000 severely wounded, according to statistics
kept by Deep South Watch, a monitoring organisation in southern
Thailand. In recent months, the region has averaged four violent
incidents a day. The shootings, bombings and open gunfights in the
streets have devastated the local economy and left towns in ruins. And
now, according to both Thai officials and Malay diplomats, the violence
appears to be escalating.
In April, insurgents launched three sophisticated car bomb attacks,
killing 14 people. On one day this summer, insurgents launched 102
simultaneous attacks across the south, including five bombings and
innumerable shootings. The death toll rises each year - 310 people in
2009, 521 in 2010, and 535 in 2011, according to monitoring
organisations. The chief of staff of Thailand's army recently
acknowledged that the violence was unlikely to end anytime soon. Both
sides have begun using extreme tactics. The Thai forces have armed
local Buddhists, and in doing so created state-sanctioned vigilante
groups. Both sides are accused by human rights groups of using children
as soldiers. Government security forces frequently abduct local
suspects and torture or kill them, according to reports by Human Rights
The violence has made southern Thailand the deadliest war zone in East
Asia. And yet the conflict in the south has, for years, been almost
invisible on the global stage, even though Thailand is a country woven
into the world economy by trade and tourism. It is rarely covered in
the media in the West or the Muslim world. It is all but ignored in
policy circles in Washington, most Asian capitals, and even among many
policymakers in Bangkok. And though some Muslims from southern Thailand
have attempted to get international bodies to help address their
grievances, including the United Nations and the Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC), they have been largely ignored.
Though representatives of the OIC have met with some representatives of
the southern insurgents, by and large, say several diplomats who were
involved with the OIC, southern Thailand is not an important issue for
"They see some place like southern Thailand as tangential, it's not in the Arab world," says one.
The three southern provinces along the Malay border have long had
differences with Bangkok. They were, until the early 20th century, part
of a sultanate. Around then, the Bangkok monarchy - a Buddhist
institution - gained control of the region, triggering local anger
against what the Malay-speaking minority viewed as a foreign grip. In
the 1960s and 1970s, an earlier separatist insurgency emerged in
southern Thailand, but the death toll was relatively low, and most of
the insurgents put aside their weapons in the 1980s, following an
amnesty from the national government.
To this day, no one really knows why the insurgency re-emerged in the
early 2000s, and why the new conflicts were so much more violent. Many
southerners date the first major attack to 2001, when at the end of the
year an unknown entity organised five well-coordinated attacks on
police stations in the south, killing five officers. The attacks were
shocking, but not completely unexpected. Even during the quiet periods
of the 1980s and 1990s, separatist tensions still simmered. For the
south's youth, limited economic opportunity, perceived discrimination
from Bangkok paired with the capital's exploitation of the region's
abundant natural resources and an increased prevalence of drugs all led
to a sense of alienation and fuelled the emergence of a radicalised
youth population. According to Duncan McCargo, a scholar of southern
Thailand at the University of Leeds in the UK, some became involved in
growing networks of organised drug gangs, which supported an initial
spate of attacks on local officials and created a climate of
lawlessness. In addition, in the 1990s, communities in southern
Thailand became closely linked to other parts of the Muslim world. With
public schools in the south teaching primarily in Thai, many
southerners began sending their children to private Islamic pondok
schools, some of which were funded by charities from Arabian Gulf
nations. Some schoolteachers argued for a renewal of the battle against
the Thai state, and some of these institutions began to provide fertile
recruiting grounds for militant networks, according to the
International Crisis Group (ICG).
The Thai government fuelled southerners' rage through repressive
policies in the early and mid-2000s. After the first stirrings of the
insurgency, Thaksin Shinawatra's government, abolished a popular local
southern board designed to hear grievances. Worse, rather than making
efforts to address some of the grievances aired in the early 2000s by
nonviolent southern activists, Thaksin took the opposite approach by
centralising power in Bangkok. He rotated larger battalions of troops
to the south, including many from other areas of Thailand where the
soldiers had never interacted with Muslims. Thaksin had, through
speeches, essentially given the security forces free rein in the deep
The result of centralisation of power and demonisation of southerners
led to disasters such as the October 2004 Tak Bai incident in
Narathiwat. When six men were arrested for allegedly supplying weapons
to the insurgency, protesters demanding their release amassed outside
the station at which they were being held. Dozens of protesters were
arrested, and during their transport to a nearby military base in which
prisoners were stacked in a lorry five to six deep, 78 people were
either crushed or suffocated to death. No senior army or police officer
has ever been punished for the incident, but the level of violence in
the south increased soon after.
Unlike the 1960s and early 1970s, when the earlier insurgency was led
by several groups with well-known leaders, this time the violence has
been highly decentralised. A study by Human Rights Watch showed that
the insurgents want to drive Thai Buddhists out of the south, as well
as possibly institute more use of local languages, stricter forms of
Islam, and ultimately obtaining autonomy or a separate state. But no
one leader has emerged at the head of the insurgency, and experts such
as Don Pathan of The Nation newspaper in Bangkok say that the insurgent
cells are diffuse. Some of the insurgents issue warnings and demands to
locals in the south and the Thai government, often through leaflets
left on cars or in public places, but no one knows whether these
demands represent all of the insurgents. The best analysis of the
structure of the insurgency, put together by several researchers
travelling through the south, found that the insurgents seem to be
organised in small cells of six or seven fighters, run by a higher
"Military Council" whose leaders are known as BRN-Coordinate, an
acronym representing a series of words in Malay. Benjamin Zawicki, a
longtime Amnesty International researcher, says: "The secrecy of
BRN-Coordinate is such, however, that often the real name of superiors
… or even fellow unit members, is not known to other members."
As a result of the diffuse networks of command, breaking up insurgent
cells or even trying to negotiate with the militants has proven
difficult for the authorities. In recent weeks, the Thai government has
convinced almost 100 alleged militants to surrender, and have held
talks with some veteran militant leaders. Yet even senior Thai
government ministers privately admit that, though there are some 60,000
troops in the south and 66 government agencies involved in addressing
the violence, they have no real idea whether the men who surrendered
had actually been linked to any violence, or whether the older leaders
really had any direct ties to heads of insurgent cells operating today.
Five years ago, the Thai military claimed they believed there were as
many as 40,000 people in the south linked to the insurgency; more
recently, the military has claimed that there are only a few hundred
people involved, a disparity that suggests the Thai government has no
real clue about the number of fighters.
For a brief period in the early 2000s, the conflict in southern
Thailand did make it onto the world's radar. Shortly after the
September 11 attacks, some western terrorism experts attempted to link
the southern insurgents to Al Qaeda. A group of terrorism specialists
who had never focused on southern Thailand before, including Rohan
Gunaratna of the International Center for Political Violence and
Terrorism Research in Singapore, seemed to want to lump all Muslim
insurgent groups together, and began issuing reports, full of raw data
but with few hard examples, of southern Thailand and the global
In perhaps the most notable example of this trend, well-known American
terrorism researcher Zachary Abuza became interested in southern
Thailand and published a series of articles and books, mostly based on
Thai security forces' views, which tried to link the south to a global
jihad. Abuza argued that there was reason to be suspicious that the
southern insurgency was linked to Al Qaeda funding networks, senior Al
Qaeda operational leaders, and Al Qaeda local leaders in South East
Asia. His reports were taken seriously, at least for a time, by
government officials in the United States, where he taught at the
National Defense University. This theory was encouraged by hawks in the
Thai government, who saw that linking the south to international
networks would gain Thailand greater assistance from the US.
Indeed, Hambali, who was said to be the South East Asia head of the
organisation, travelled through Thailand and may have ventured to the
south. One of the most prominent clerics in the south, a man named
Ismail Lufti, who operates a prosperous, gleaming private school that
stands out from the run-down schools on most southern streets, was seen
in 2002 meeting with two men later linked to bombings in Bali.
Meanwhile, a comprehensive study by the ICG, taken two years ago,
showed that some Islamic private schools in the south, including
several funded with foreign aid, helped "recruits [be] drawn into the
But several teachers noted that none of the recruiters or students saw
the southern conflict as part of some broader Muslim war, or were
interested in establishing an Islamic caliphate in South East Asia,
another theory proposed by counterterrorism specialists in the West.
More often, they just raged at the Thai state's denigration of their
legal and linguistic rights, or at the presence of thousands of army
troops all over the south. Many of the captured militants showed little
devotion to religion at all.
Indeed, as McCargo says, "The standard tactics of global jihadis, such
as targeting foreigners … and selecting high-profile targets outside of
the immediate conflict zone, have not been used in southern Thailand."
The militants have launched no major attacks outside the south, even
though high-end resorts patronised by wealthy westerners are close by.
By contrast, Jemaah Islamiyah, which is clearly an Al Qaeda-linked
terror group that has operated in Indonesia for more than a decade, has
attacked western interests such as the Bali nightclub strip and the JW
Marriott hotel in Jakarta.
Senior members of Thailand's national security council have admitted as
much, with National Intelligence Agency director Suwaphan Tanyuwattana
recently declaring that he did not think southern insurgents received
backing from Islamist militants. Or, as several southern teachers and
activists told me, among young southerners, there is no cult following
for prominent Middle Eastern clerics or terrorist leaders, since they
look only to Malay leaders (including some Malaysian politicians) for
When no major links to Al Qaeda emerged in the south, much of the world
seemed to lose attention. Meanwhile, the few experts on Thailand that
exist in the West have been primarily focused on the ongoing political
conflict in Bangkok and the centre of the country, which since 2006 has
resulted in a coup, numerous street protests, and the violent
demonstrations and army actions that resulted in at least 80 deaths in
Bangkok. The international media have no regular correspondents based
in southern Thailand, a sharp contrast from Afghanistan or other major
conflict zones, and the southern Muslims - unlike former fighters in
East Timor or in Palestinian Territories today - have no global
champion or diaspora network to speak for their cause and to bring
their grievances to a broader audience. Most western news
organisations, lacking any global story in the south or a compelling
southern Thai leader, run only an occasional story about the violence.
"Some people in Malaysia pay attention to these news stories, but
anywhere else in the region, no one does," says one Malaysian diplomat.
The Thai insurgents do not seem interested in changing this dynamic
with reporters: they rarely issue public statements via the internet or
television, or provide spokespeople who can meet with or at least
After Thaksin was removed as prime minister in a coup in 2006,
Thailand's elites fought for several years over control of Bangkok.
Finally, in 2011, a party led by Thaksin's sister Yingluck, and
actually commanding a majority of Thai voters, won parliamentary
elections, giving it a strong mandate, though it was mistrusted by many
army officers. Since taking office, the Yingluck government has adopted
some new approaches to the south. Some top Thai politicians, including
the deputy prime minister, have finally broached the idea of giving the
southern provinces their own elected governors and significant
autonomy, which was previously a red line no major Thai politician
This dramatic shift from previous Thai policy could, if correctly
implemented, cut down the militants' appeal and reduce grievances in
the south, and also possibly make Bangkok politicians who had just
written off the violence begin to once again try to work for solutions.
"The military-directed policy toward the south isn't working," wrote
the Bangkok Post after the autonomy proposal was released. "It is past
time to debate a new approach to the country's greatest security
The government has not only accepted the surrender and provided amnesty
to about 100 former fighters, it has also conducted more regular talks
with men it believes are representatives of insurgent cells to get a
better sense of their core demands. In sharp contrast to the bravado of
previous Thai military leaders, the current army chief has won credit
among southerners for at least admitting that the situation is severe,
has many components, and will not be resolved easily anytime soon.
Although the armed forces continue to detain suspects with little due
process, the number of disappearances and reports of torture have
diminished since the mid-2000s, and the army has rotated into the south
a wider range of officers with more advanced counterinsurgency
training, better understanding of local conditions, and at least some
familiarity with Thai Muslims. In addition, the Thai government has
tried to work more closely with neighbouring Malaysia, across the
border, to prevent militants from easily slipping back and forth,
according to several Malaysian diplomats.
And yet, even as the current Thai government seems to be moving closer
to policy changes that could address southern grievances, the violence
has, in recent months, reached its highest levels in recent years,
while the insurgents also seem to have become better-coordinated and
Southern Thailand politicians and local officials offer differing
explanations for the spike in violence. Among the most optimistic,
usually officials who support the national government, the spike is an
attempt by insurgent cells to press their advantage before coming to
the peace table, a time-honoured strategy used by insurgents around the
world. These officials argue that, with a populist government in
Bangkok, supported by a large majority of rural Thais, the Yingluck
govenrment is better-placed than any previous Thai government to
understand the economic and political grievances of poor southerners.
Given that few people with top-level experience in the insurgency have
actually surrendered or even agreed to talk, this explanation for the
surging violence seems unlikely. Though the populist party running
Thailand today is genuinely popular among the rural poor, it is not so
beloved in the south - in the last parliamentary election, when
Yingluck's party got an absolute majority of seats, it took only one
seat in the entire southern region.
Instead, many teachers, local officials and analysts suggest a more
menacing and depressing conclusion. After a decade of violence and with
the Thai economy slowing down due to falling exports, young men in the
south have become wedded to the insurgency as a way of life. Joining
insurgent cells allows them access to money - insurgents often shake
down local merchants and are allegedly involved in drug trafficking and
other crimes - social status, and a way of venting their enormous
resentments against Thai Buddhists, the state and their lack of
relevance in Thai society as a whole. The insurgents also have attacked
southerners who attempt to avoid violence and make money through
traditional jobs such as rubber tapping. As each generation of young
men in the south has been drawn into the insurgency, and as some
teachers, local clerics, and other powerful southerners treat the
insurgents with great respect, generation after generation of
southerners see the battle as the best option not just for their
politics, but for their own social well-being. And that is a hard cycle
Joshua Kurlantzick is Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations
Thailand Fighting Against Over 3,000 Muslim Militants: Army
Deadly Bomb Attacks Cast Light On Forgotten Conflict
BANGKOK, April 2, (Agencies): Thailand is fighting against more than
3,000 Muslim militants waging a shadowy insurgency in the deep south
that has claimed thousands of lives, army chief General Prayut
Chan-O-Cha said Monday.
Suspected militants set off a series of car bombs on Saturday that
killed 14 people and wounded hundreds in the deadliest attacks to hit
the region in recent years.
“There are about 300 of leader rank, 3,000 operators and about 10,000
supporters,” the general said, adding that their numbers had fallen due
Prayut called for people to remain calm following the weekend attacks
in which a tourist hotel was targeted, raising concerns as Thailand
prepares for the mid-April new year Songkran holiday.
“Do not panic because that is what this group wants,” he said.
Prayut was speaking in Bangkok before accompanying Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra on a visit to the largest southern city of Hat Yai,
where a car bomb at a hotel triggered a fire that killed three people
and injured more than 400.
The attack came about an hour after car bombs killed 11 people and
wounded more than 100 in the town of Yala further south.
attack was an apparent escalation in the tactics of militants who have
waged a deadly insurgency in the far south since 2004 that has claimed
both Buddhist and Muslim lives.
Hat Yai, a popular destination for
tourists from Malaysia and Singapore, has largely been spared the
violence which plagues the three neighbouring far southern provinces on
an almost daily basis but rarely on the scale of Saturday’s
The insurgents are not thought to be part of a global jihad
movement but are instead rebelling against a long history of perceived
discrimination against ethnic-Malay Muslims by successive Thai
Struggling to quell the unrest, authorities have imposed
emergency rule in the region, which rights campaigners say effectively
gives the army legal immunity.
The region was an autonomous Malay
Muslim sultanate until it was annexed in 1902 by mainly Buddhist
One after another, the bombs went off, destroying shops and
vehicles, engulfing buildings in flame and smoke and sending panicked
shoppers and tourists fleeing.
By Monday, two days after the most
coordinated bomb attacks in southern Thailand in years, the damage was
clear: 13 people were killed, more than 300 wounded and the Thai
government’s policy to contain an eight-year rebellion by shadowy
ethnic Malay Muslim rebels was again in tatters.
The bombs were hidden
in pickup trucks in two cities 140 kms (87 miles) apart, exploding
within an hour of each other. Two went off in Yala, one of three
Muslim-majority southern provinces at the heart of the insurgency that
has claimed 5,000 lives since 2004.
Those explosions killed 10 people in a busy shopping street.
went off in the basement car park of the five-star Lee Gardens Plaza
Hotel and shopping centre in Hat Yai, a bustling commercial centre that
rarely sees such violence, just a few hour’s drive from some of
Thailand’s best-known beach resorts. Rescue workers recovered three
bodies from the hotel.
“What’s unprecedented was the scale of the operation ... and the
ruthlessness in targeting large numbers of civilians,” said Anthony
Davis, an analyst at IHS-Jane’s, a global security consulting firm.
bombings add to a growing list of problems for Prime Minister Yingluck
Shinawatra, a political novice who since taking office last August has
faced problems on multiple fronts, from a flood crisis and entrenched
political divisions to rising food prices and a struggling
Yingluck pledged before her election to consider turning the
three southern provinces into a special administrative zone with one
elected governor, a sensitive subject in Buddhist Thailand where the
government has long resisted the idea of handing more political power
to its minority Muslims.
But Saturday’s attacks in a city popular with
Malaysian tourists might give her reason to reconsider that
“Violence in the three southernmost provinces has become
routine,” says Davis, “but an attack at the heart of Hat Yai’s tourist
district on a Saturday afternoon was obviously intended to seize
national and international attention and make a very brutal point: this
is not ‘business as usual’.”
official beheaded in Thai Muslim south
Separatist militants shot dead and beheaded a Buddhist state official in
Thailand's Muslim south on Tuesday, police said, the latest death in 57 months
of insurgency in which more than 3,100 people have died.
found 29 spent M-16 bullets around the pickup truck of the victim, identified as
26-year-old Attapong Gonlom, after at least two gunmen opened fire on him at a
school in Pattani, one of four southern provinces hit by the violence.
attack, the gunmen dragged his body out of the truck and chopped his head off,
to the horror of students and teachers," a police incident report said.
incident pushed the number of people decapitated in the Malay-speaking region to
34, a Reuters calculation based on police data and newspaper reports showed.
nearby province of Yala, rebels raided a seven-man army outpost late on Monday,
killing one ranger and wounding another, police said.
militants walked away with seven automatic rifles, a pistol, four flak jackets
and 1,000 bullets, police said.
spokesman could not say what happened to the other five rangers.
attack happened when the rangers were about to have dinner and it is not clear
if the rest were able to escape," Colonel Acra Tiproch told Reuters
latest violence erupted in 2004, the rebels have never revealed themselves
publicly or claimed responsibility for the near daily gun and bomb attacks in
the rubber-producing region bordering Malaysia.
by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Alan Raybould)
MUSLIM ANGER: THE THAI DILEMMA
internal security situation in southern Thailand, which has seen a
recrudescence of long dormant Muslim anger against the Government since
the beginning of this year, has again taken a turn for the worse with
the death of six Muslims allegedly due to firing by the security forces
outside a police station in the Narathiwat province on October 25,2004,
and the subsequent death, allegedly due to suffocation and renal
failure, of another 78 Muslims who were among those arrested during a
large demonstration by about 3,000 Muslims outside the police station
which led to the use of tear-smoke and firing by the security forces to
The firing by the security forces and the consequent death of six
Muslims, though tragic, are understandable taking into account the kind
of provocative demonstration which the security forces faced. What is
not understandable and needs to be strongly condemned, as it has been
by many leading personalities and large sections of the media in
Thailand itself, is the shocking treatment of the detenus after they
had been arrested.
While only the enquiry ordered by the Government could establish the
facts of the case, available evidence already suggests that the
security forces cannot escape a major share of the blame for failing to
protect those in their custody and for transporting them under
apparently inhuman conditions packed like sardines in trucks which were
too small for transporting such large numbers. The fact that while
being transported, the detenus, many of them injured, had their hands
allegedly tied behind their back and were made to lie one upon the
other inside the trucks made the humanitarian disaster inevitable.
What has further aggravated the anger of not only the local Muslims,
but also of many living in other countries of South-East Asia was the
seeming insensitivity of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra not only to
the steadily deteriorating situation in Southern Thailand since
January, but also to the humanitarian tragedy of October 25 and
Right or wrong, there is a perception not only among the Muslims of
Thailand and the region, but also among many non-Muslim intellectuals
and human rights activists that his background as a policeman before he
entered the world of business and then of politics has been coming in
the way of a greater finesse in dealing with the situation and a
willingness to hold the security forces in general and the police in
particular accountable for their actions. Consequently, over-reaction
against the Muslim anger resulting in excesses and human rights
violations and a growing perception among the Muslims that the
administration in general and the security forces in particular are
anti-Muslim are adding to the complexities of an already complex
The anger of the minorities in any country ---whether religious or
sectarian or ethnic or ideological-- passes through the following
stages--- communal, that is, against a community perceived as
adversaries; anti-police/security forces due to their over-reaction and
due to perceptions, right or wrong, that they are biased against the
minorities; ant-Government due to perceptions that it is insensitive
and over-protective of the security forces; and finally anti-national
due to perceptions that the minorities cannot get justice as part of
the existing nation.
similar evolution has been taking place in Southern Thailand. The
failure of the Government to lucidly analyse the situation and follow
an appropriate strategy to tackle it has played into the hands of
jihadi terrorist organisations/elements of external
inspiration/instigation and Thailand faces the danger of a situation
similar to that prevalent in the Southern Philippines. The fact that
Thailand had faced a similar Muslim insurgent movement in its Southern
provinces in the past and dealt with it successfully should not lead to
a feeling of complacency that it could ultimately deal successfully
with the present situation too without its threatening national
integrity, economic stability and national security.
Pernicious ideas of pan-Islamic kind emanating from organisations such
as Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and his International Islamic Front (IIF)
were not there in the 1980s despite the then raging jihad against the
Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Today, such pernicious ideas have been
creeping across the South and the South-East Asian region from their
spawning grounds in Pakistan and Bangladesh. They make the tasks of the
security forces much more difficult than they were in the past.
9. There are five characteristic features of the situation in Southern Thailand as it has evolved since January,2004:
of agitprop methods by Muslim clerics, similar to those used by the
communists in the past, to force confrontational situations with the
security forces and provoke them to over-react, thereby leading to
human rights violations and alienation of the man in the street against
the Security Forces and ultimately against the Government. Such
agitprop methods were typically in action in the incident outside a
mosque in April,2004, and in the incident of October 25. In recent
weeks, there has been a growing number of worrisome incidents of
alleged thefts of fire-arms issued to Muslim members of the village
defence forces in Southern Thailand. A legitimate suspicion of the
Police and other security forces that these were probably not genuine
thefts, but instances of the Muslim members voluntarily handing over
their weapons issued by the Police to the jihadi terrorists and then
covering them up as thefts led to rigorous enquiries by the police. It
was the arrest of some Muslim members, who had reported such thefts,
which would appear to have led to the surrounding of the police station
by a mob of 3,000 resulting in a confrontational situation. Available
reports from reliable sources indicate that this was not a spontaneous
outburst of public anger, but a carefully instigated and orchestrated
killings of individuals such as Government officials and their
relatives, Buddhists etc by two-member jihadi terrorist squads using
motor cycles for carrying out their attacks and getting away. The modus
operandi used by these terrorist squads closely resemble that used by
the Sunni extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al
Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan. This modus operandi is taught in the
madrasas controlled by the LEJ and the HUJI in Pakistan and in those
controlled by the HUJI (Bangladesh) in Bangladesh. Many Thai Muslims
had been trained in these madrasas in Pakistan and this job of training
future recruits from Southern Thailand has since been taken over by
HUJI (B) in Bangladesh. Reliable reports from Bangladesh speak of a
HUJI-run OBL (Osama bin Laden) Trail, similar to the Ho Chi-Minh trail
of the Vietnam war days, operating between Bangladesh and Thailand for
bringing in small numbers of Thai Muslims, with the help of their
Myanmarese co-religionists, training them in the HUJI-controlled
madrasas of Bangladesh and escorting them back. It is stated that the
OBL trail is now being used only for the movement of men and not
material. There is also a flow of funds from the HUJI of Bangladesh,
which is a member of the IIF, to the Muslims of Southern Thailand.
According to some estimates, about 250 plus individuals---public
servants and non-governmental personalities----have been the victims of
such targeted killings since January this year. These continue
uninterrupted, without the police being able to establish the
identities of the terrorists involved and their organisations.
the efforts of the Thai Police to establish the identities of the
individuals and organisations involved in acts of violence/terrorism by
projecting their investigation and detention of suspected Muslims for
interrogation as anti-Islam . After the incidents of raids and looting
of firearms by the terrorists in January, police attempts to detain and
question Ismaae Yusof Rayalong, the headmaster of the Tohyeeming
Islamic boarding school in Yala's Muang district, and teachers, Muhamad
Hayeewea Sohor and Santi Sama-ae, of the Suwannakorn school in tambon
Bor Thong of Pattani's Nong Chik district, were projected by the
jihadis as evidence of the anti-Muslim attitude of the police. In the
face of such orchestrated attempts to denigrate their professionalism
and to project the local police force as anti-Muslim, police officers
are unfortunately tending to over-react to even the slightest
provocation from Muslim mobs.
skillfully planned and executed psychological warfare campaign by the
perpetrators of violence and the Muslim clerics supporting them to
project serious incidents of violence or terrorism, which might shock
the international community, as incidents stage-managed by the local
security agencies in order to have the Muslims discredited as
terrorists. One finds here a close resemblance between the psywar
tactics used by the perpetrators of violence in Southern Thailand and
those used elsewhere in the world by the members of the IIF. Pakistani
jihadi terrorist organisations, which are members of the IIF, often
project serious incidents of terrorism by their followers in India's
Jammu & Kashmir as stage-managed by the Indian intelligence and
security agencies in order to discredit the Muslims. Till Osama bin
Laden admitted the responsibility of Al Qaeda for the 9/11 terrorist
strikes in the US, the IIF was projecting them as carried out by the
MOSSAD, Israel's external intelligence agency. One saw the use of such
psywar tactics by some clerics and others after the violent incidents
of January and April in Thailand's southern provinces. After the
incidents of January, one Abdullah Ahamad, a religious teacher in
Pattani, accused the police of selling the fire-arms issued to them to
smugglers and blaming the Muslims for allegedly looting them. He
alleged: "The arms were stolen not by Muslim Mujahideen or by
separatists, but with the help of the soldiers in the camps, and the
schools were burnt by pro-government elements." In an interview to the
AFP news agency after the January incidents, Yapa Barahaeng, a retired
teacher, alleged: "Muslim groups haven't done this. It seems the
government itself or the police or military have done it." he said.
There have been numerous instances of such false propaganda by Muslim
activists to create a divide between the security forces and the local
Muslim population. We in India are all too familiar with such psywar
tactics used by the Pakistani members of the IIF and should, therefore,
be able to understand the dilemma faced by the Thai security agencies
in the face of externally-instigated psywar attempts to have them
demonised in the eyes of the Muslim population.
at an Arabisation of the local Muslim culture and religious practices
through madrasas funded by Saudi money flowing largely from the Al
Haramain office in Bangladesh, Arabic language classes and
dissemination of copies of the Holy Koran in the Arabic language and
exhortations to the local Muslims to study the Holy Koran in the Arabic
language only and give up the use of the Thai language for this
10. The resulting situation, which is
extremely delicate, calls for deft and professional handling not only
by the security forces, but also by the political leadership, but there
is unfortunately little evidence of such handling. What is needed in
Southern Thailand is a carefully worked-out counter-terrorism strategy,
which should, inter alia, include the following components:
The use of the police as the weapon of first resort against terrorism and of the Army only as the weapon of last resort.
in the training of the Police for counter-terrorism roles, with
emphasis on the need to act with restraint so that instances of
over-reaction are avoided and on the need for better interactions with
the Muslim community in order to improve police--community relations.
drafting of a code of conduct with the civilian population while
dealing with terrorism, the teaching of this code in the training
institutions of the police and other security forces and its vigorous
of the local intelligence apparatus, particularly the intelligence
collection and analysis capabilities of the local police.
setting-up of counter-terrorism centres similar to our
multi-disciplinary centre to analyse all terrorism-related intelligence
and initiate follow-up action. The centre should have under one roof
carefully selected officers from all Government departments and
agencies concerned with the problem of terrorism.
setting-up of joint operational councils in each province affected by
terrorism consisting of representatives from the concerned departments
and agencies to supervise all counter-terrorism operations.
setting-up of joint Psywar centres to counter the Psywar propaganda of
the extremists and terrorists, disseminate the correct information to
the people and to encourage the local civil society to counter the
activities of the extremists.
setting-up of a Human Rights Commission in the South with
representatives from amongst the local members of the Muslim and
non-Muslim communities, from the Government as well as from outside the
Government and headed by a respected retired judge with powers to
enquire on its own into all instances of human rights violations and to
recommend follow-up action against those found responsible.
11. The need for an effective Psywar
is already engaging the attention of the Government as could be seen
from an interview with Gen.Sirichai Tunyasiri, the newly-appointed
Director of the Southern Border Provinces Peace-Keeping Command
(SBPPC), carried by the "Bangkok Post" of October 10, 2004. He said:
'While the daily killing spree by militants on motorcycles must be
stopped, a campaign by Psywar teams will be launched to win back the
trust and support of the local Muslims. Aware of the religious
sensitivity and deeply entrenched distrust among local Muslims towards
authorities, I will also consult Muslim community leaders and will
allow them to participate in decision-making on projects which would
affect their livelihood."
12. It is reported that the
Government is also contemplating a programme to encourage the Muslims
to continue to study the Holy Koran in the Thai language and to
discourage the use of the Arabic language for this purpose.
13. The Police seem to be still
having difficulty in establishing the identity of the organisation or
organisations responsible for the violence and acts of terrorism.
Though Hambali, the projected operational chief of the Jemaah Islamiyah
(JI), was arrested in Ayuthya last year, there is so far no evidence of
its involvement in the acts of terrorism in Southern Thailand. After
the latest outbreak, the needle of suspicion points to the Pattani
United Liberation Organisation (PULO), which has threatened to launch
reprisal attacks in Bangkok, Krabi and Phuket. There have already been
three explosions in the South by unidentified persons---one on October
28 at Sungei Kolok that killed two persons and injured another 20 and
two on October 29 in the Yala province that injured 20 people, 12 of
them policemen investigating the first explosion.
14. While indigenous Muslim
elements have been largely responsible so far for the acts of violence
and terrorism, funding, training, motivation and instigation have come
from outside---mainly from the pro-bin Laden HUJI of Bangladesh and its
counterpart in Pakistan and from unidentified elements in Malaysia.
Ethnically, the Muslims of Southern Thailand are of the same stock as
the Malays and the possibility of a JI link through the Malays is very
much there. The Thai authorities suspect the role of a Malay religious
teacher by name Pohsu Isma-al, who is reportedly the author of a book
called "Ber Jihad Di Pattani" ("Fighting for Pattani State") in
instigating violence in the South.He holds dual Malaysian-Thai
nationality. Earlier this year, he was reported to have been detained
by the Malaysian authorities at the request of Bangkok, but it is not
known whether they handed him over to the Thai Police for
15. While the HUJI of Pakistan
and Bangladesh have been providing training facilities and funds to the
Muslim terrorists of Southern Thailand, there is so far no evidence of
any supply of arms and ammunition and explosives. Bangkok has a large
number of Bangladeshi Muslims, but one does not know whether there is
any significant Bangladeshi community in the South.
16.On Page 150 of its report, the
US National Commission which enquired into the 9/11 terrorist strikes
in the US says:" Late 1998 to early 1999, planning for the 9/11
operation began in earnest. Yet while the 9/11 project occupied the
bulk of KSM's (Khalid Sheikh Mohammad) attention, he continued to
consider other possibilities for terrorist attacks. For example, he
sent Al Qaeda operative Issa al Britani to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to
learn about the jihad in South-East Asia from Hambali. Thereafter, KSM
claims, at bin Laden's direction in early 2001,he sent Britani to the
US to case potential economic and Jewish targets in New York
City.....KSM's proposals around the same time for attacks in Thailand,
Singapore, Indonesia and the Maldives were never executed, although
Hambali's JI operatives did some casing of possible targets."
17. The report did not give any
details of Issa al Britani, who apparently knew both KSM and bin Laden
and enjoyed their confidence to such an extent that he was entrusted
with some of the preparatory work relating to future operations not
only in the USA, but also in South-East Asia. In the beginning of
August,2004, the British intelligence rounded up 12 suspects,
reportedly on a tip-off received from the Pakistani intelligence on the
basis of their interrogation of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a young
Pakistani computer expert, who has been projected as the communications
expert of Al Qaeda, and who was arrested at Lahore on July 12,2004, and
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani , a Tanzanian national, who was wanted by the
USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for prosecution in the
case relating to the explosions outside the US Embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania in August,1998 and who was arrested at Gujrat in Pakistani
Punjab on July 25,2004.
18. Of these, eight have since
been charged before the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London. One of
them is stated to be a convert to Islam, from a Hindu family which had
migrated to the UK from Kenya in 1973 and the other seven are reported
to be of Pakistani origin. The Hindu convert to Islam is Dhiran Barot,
32, also known as (aka) Bilal aka Abu Musa al-Hindi aka Abu Eissa
al-Hindi, who has reportedly been established by the British
intelligence as none other than Al Britani referred to in the National
Commission's report. It may also be recalled that two of the Al Qaeda
terrorists involved in the 9/11 terrorist strikes were reported to have
visited Bangkok to study how the Thai immigration at the airport works.
Thus, Al Qaeda, the HUJI, the HUJI (B) and other components of the IIF
have had a long history of interest in Thailand at least since 2000 and
this interest speaks of the likelihood of their having sleeper cells
there, which have not yet been detected by the Thai authorities.
violence destroying economy in southern Thailand
By Rungrawee C. Pinyorat
September 18, 2005
PATTANI, Thailand – The open-air market
in this southern Thai city falls eerily quiet on Fridays. Most vendors stay
home, terrorized by leaflets threatening to kill or cut off the ears of
anyone who works on the Muslim holy day.
After 20 months of insurgent violence,
the no-work threat has driven another nail into what is becoming an economic
coffin in Thailand's terrorized southern provinces.
"My business has been bad as customers
are afraid to come out," said Thanchanok Putroy, 39, chopping up a catfish
in the market where most stores were shut and buses aren't running.
Among the hundreds killed in the
predominantly Muslim provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are police
and soldiers, but police records show that 80 percent are civilians – rubber
tappers, shopkeepers, civil servants, construction workers and ice cream
Bombs have exploded at a department
store, a cinema complex, the international airport at Hat Yai and a
department store owned by the French Carrefour chain. Now investors and
tourists have been driven off and some workers are leaving.
"Trade has dropped 70 to 80 percent.
Shopkeepers complain loudly. It is very quiet at night and people from
outside dare not to come to the area," said Panya Ongsakul, chairman of the
three provinces' chamber of commerce.
Always among the country's poorest
regions, per capita monthly income in Narathiwat is 2,120 baht ($51), less
than half the national average. Many Muslim villagers are angry at the
government, but also want them to quell the violence so they can continue
what have traditionally been peaceful lives in this rural region of 1.8
Fruit rots on trees and farmers in
remote areas tap rubber by day rather than at night when trees yield their
Soaring demand, driven by the booming
Chinese economy, has doubled rubber's price on the global market, but
production in Pattani province has plummeted to a tenth of its volume in
just a year, according to official statistics.
The 117-room Royal Princess, the
largest hotel in Narathiwat, closed in January after occupancy dropped by
half. Killings at building sites have chased away Buddhist workers and some
contractors from outside the area have stopped bidding on new projects.
Prices of quarried rock have doubled,
because the government severely limited the use of explosives that were
reportedly being stolen for bomb attacks. The government eased the curbs as
part of efforts to revive the economy, but Defense Minister Thammarak
Isarangura Na Ayutthaya, while warily approving the measure, said he
expected coffins would have to be stockpiled for bomb victims.
Insurgency still rages in southern
By Paris Lord, Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
BANGKOK: Two years after suspected Muslim
militants raided an army base in southern Thailand and set off a bloody
insurgency, the region is driven by distrust and peace remains a distant
prospect, analysts say.
A daily tide of violence in the
Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia has left more than 1,000 people
dead since the January 4, 2004, raid, and critics say government efforts to rein
in the violence have been woeful.
Bangkok has tried dumping 120 million paper
birds from aircraft in a symbolic peace drop and pledging cable television for
village teahouses as part of efforts to bring peace.
But despite repeated government assurances
that the unrest is under control or declining, the frequent killings—two men
were found shot and beheaded on Monday—suggest otherwise.
It appeared an end to the violence was a
long way off, said Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch consultant on Thailand.
“Until now, the militants haven’t identified
themselves or made clear their objectives and that in itself indicates they
don’t have any intention to start negotiations with the government,” he told AFP.
“We’re talking about a double failure.
“We know the government can’t solve the
militants [problem], the second is the government can’t win the trust of the
locals,” said Sunai, blaming officials for abuses which started with the
investigation into the original January 4 raid.
Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun,
whom Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra tapped in February to run the
government-appointed National Reconciliation Commission, has said Bangkok must
admit and apologize for past abuses.
When Anand was appointed to the commission
and charged with devising a peace plan, the death toll stood at around 610. It
is expected to publish its recommendations in March.
The restive provinces once formed an
autonomous Muslim sultanate until they was annexed by Thailand a century ago.
Separatist violence has periodically flared since then, but the groups who led
the last campaign in the 1970s largely disintegrated in the 1980s and many
members are in exile.
Abdul, a villager in Narathiwat province who
asked his full name not be used because of fears for his safety, said government
officials had failed to build unity and peace over the past two years.
He said the main reason was the officials,
who are all Buddhists, lacked understanding of the roots of the problems and
Thai Muslims’ ways of life.
Buddhists form the majority in this country
of about 63 million people. Muslims make up fewer than five percent and most of
whom live in southern Thailand. Many Muslims are ethnic Malays who speak Yawi or
Malayu dialects, not Thai.
A controversial emergency decree the
government introduced in July 2005 and renewed for an extra three months in
October allows detention without trial and gives officials immunity from
“While the decree gives more power to state
officials to arrest and detain suspects, it has failed to regain the trust of
local people toward the government and somehow made it worse,” Abdul said.
The head of Pattani’s local administration,
Ahmad Somboon Bualuang, said he could not see any improvement in the situation.
Instead, economic conditions had
deteriorated, with incomes cut to around one third of what they were before
2004, because people were afraid of leaving their homes and tourism had crashed.
“I haven’t seen any improvement over the
past two years, even though the government has tried to present positive images
about what’s going on,” he said.
“In fact, local people feel more pressure as
the authorities cannot explain clearly who is actually behind the violence, and
they’ve arrested a number of people who haven’t done anything wrong,” Ahmad
Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya
said on Sunday the government would work harder to end the violence.
“Officials do not really understand the
problem clearly and they haven’t implemented follow-up measures,” Chidchai
conceded. “Lots of things have to be done.”
admits southern Muslim violence raging unabated
The Associated Press
June 21, 2007
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia:
Southern Thailand's Islamic insurgency has not abated despite the new
government's peace efforts, the defense minister acknowledged Thursday, though
he claimed the extremists were on their "last legs."
The government, which took over
after a military coup late last year, says it is seeking talks with the rebels
and has adopted a "hearts and minds" approach to ending the insurgency,
reversing former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's hard-line military bid to
crush the rebellion.
However, the rebels have only
intensified their violence in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, the only
Muslim-dominated areas in the Buddhist-majority country.
The violence has killed more than
2,300 people since early 2004 in the south, where many Muslims have long
complained of discrimination.
"The violence in the southern
border provinces seems, at the moment, not getting better due to the nature of
the culprits themselves," Thai Defense Minister Gen. Boonrod Somtad said during
a visit to Malaysia's biggest city, Kuala Lumpur.
But the "instigators ... seem to
be on the last legs, on the point of trying to elevate the problem, trying to
make the problem more international," Boonrod said through an interpreter. He
did not elaborate.
The insurgency-hit area lies near
Thailand's border with Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Boonrod also said that, even
though the military-established Thai government is a temporary one, it was
trying to enact new measures to solve the problem by using reconciliation
"Now our policies are coming into
effect, and the situation in the south should be improving in the foreseeable
future," he said.
Speaking at a news conference
alongside Boonrod, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed
confidence that Thai authorities will be able to find a peaceful solution, and
that the unrest would not spill into the bordering parts of northern Malaysia.
"We have taken the stance that
this is a domestic problem of Thailand, and therefore we respect the sovereignty
of Thailand and we will not interfere unless we are invited to cooperate and to
help out in any way," Najib said.
south derides ceasefire claim as hoax
YALA, Thailand (AFP) —
Televised claims of a ceasefire by separatist militants were derided Friday as a
hoax in Thailand's Muslim-majority south, after a veteran insurgent leader
disavowed the move.
A group called Ruam Pak Tai
Khong Prathet Thai (Thailand's United Southern Underground group) made a
videotaped announcement Thursday, broadcast on an army-run television station,
declaring an end to the violence.
The declaration was greeted
with widespread doubts among the Thai military, other insurgent leaders, and
residents of the southern region along the Malaysian border who have suffered
through four years of near-daily attacks.
Thailand's army commander
General Anupong Paojinda said the military was surprised by the announcement,
and an official statement later distanced the army further from the ex-army
chief who had apparently negotiated the move.
General Chetta Thanacharo,
also the former defence minister, claimed he had orchestrated a ceasefire.
"The royal Thai army has
nothing to do with the announcement by the militant group on Thai television. It
was carried out by a private person, General Chetta, who hopes for peace in the
southern provinces," the statement said.
"The Thai army continue to
adhere to a policy of non-violence and strict law enforcement to solve the
problems in the south and to create justice along with development and security
for local residents," it said.
Hours after Thursday's
televised statement, leaflets written in Thai and Arabic began circulating the
restive town of Yala, urging militants to continue their armed struggle and to
ignore the ceasefire announcement.
Residents said they saw no
reason to believe the declaration.
"I don't give any weight to
yesterday's announcement. I closely monitor developments and I don't think it
was genuine," said Ahmad Jaewae, 45, an Internet shop owner in Yala town.
"The real leader would speak
from his heart, not from a script," he told AFP.
Torlab Sama-ali, 60, a rubber
tapper in Yala, was also skeptical but said he hoped for official negotiations
between the government and militants to stop the violence.
"If it's true it would be
very welcome, as we are all suffering from the unrest -- and as Muslims we do
not agree with violence," he said.
Paison, 28, who gave only one
name, said the professed leaders were former militants who are no longer active.
"I am not convinced that a
ceasefire would be agreed this easily without any concessions after all the many
Muslims arrested over the years," he said.
The conflict has claimed
3,300 lives in the past four years and authorities have struggled to identify
the militants, who rarely claim responsibility for attacks.
One veteran militant leader,
Kasturi Mahkota, disavowed the statement, saying his group knew nothing about
the militants who appeared on television.
"Nothing has changed and the
dialogue with the Thai authorities is still in the pipeline," Kasturi, foreign
affairs chief for the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), told The
PULO emerged in 1968 and over
the next two decades became the biggest insurgent group fighting in the mainly
Muslim region along the southern border with Malaysia.
The group largely fell apart
in the 1990s with most of their leaders living in exile. Past statements by PULO
and Kasturi have had little effect on the fighting on the ground.
Analysts from local human
rights organisation Working Group on Justice for Peace said the announcement
could do more harm than good.
"The announcement was just a
scene in a play. It not only contributes to the situation of unrest but will
worsen the situation," the group said in a statement.
In their video, the militants
said the ceasefire had taken effect from July 14. But attacks have continued to
rattle the region since then, including bombings at two of the main police
stations in the border provinces.
The region was an autonomous
Malay Muslim sultanate until Thailand annexed it in 1902, provoking decades of
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