- The following is from Straits Times:
January 21, 2011 Friday, 11:48 AM
Nirmal Ghosh on the deadly raid on a Thai army camp and gets both sides to respond
My report on the raid on the army camp in Narathiwat’s Rangae district is in today’s print edition of The Straits Times at http://www.straitstimes.com/Asia/South-eastAsia/Story/STIStory_626540.html
The raid on Wednesday evening left four soldiers dead and several wounded, some of them very seriously. The militants got away with a haul of automatic weapons and ammunition.
The Thai army has deployed hundreds of troops to search the densely forested hills of the district for the insurgents, some of whom are believed to have been wounded in the firefight.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Dr Panitan Wattanayagorn last night said the government would still consider lifting the emergency in some districts in the troubled deep south.
The incident would not derail policy or the intent to reform the administrative setup – including key changes to the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre.
For a recent summary of SBPAC’s new powers, see here http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/217244/sbpac-given-wide-powers
Dr Panitan speculated that a wider strategic aim of the raid, which mirrored – though on a slightly smaller scale the raid on Jan 4, 2004 on a military weapons depot in the same province – may have been to grab international attention ahead of an Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in March.
The most prominent insurgent group is the Barisan Revolusi Nasional – Coordinate (BRN-C).
About a year ago, it reached a formal alliance with the older generation Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO).
But there is no visible leadership. Mentors are suspected to be living abroad.
Informal talks between Thai government emissaries and PULO leaders abroad appear to have stalled, with the Thai government sceptical of PULO’s control over the newer generation of young militants on the ground.
The conflict has long and deep roots. PULO maintains a “Siam must acknowledge the problem in Pattani as a problem of colonialism” stand.
The former kingdom of Pattani was invaded in 1786 by the kingdom of Siam, and formally annexed in 1902.
A series of strategic errors by then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, stoked the re-emergence of the insurgency in January 2004.
The hardline response of the armed forces, with little or no accountability for the army and police, and a spreading gun culture, has fuelled more discontent among local Malay Muslims who comprise the majority of the population in the area.
I asked PULO foreign affairs chief Kasturi Mahkota, who is based in Sweden, for comments on the raid.
Here is his emailed reply (RTG being Royal Thai Government):
“The commando in field of the Gerakan Pembebasan Melayu Patani (GPMP) or (PMLM) would like to pass the message to the RTG as follows:
1. Thai army should stop targeting and oppressing the civilians immediately.
2. RTG should accelerate the peace process.”
For further detailed reading, see International Crisis Group’s full report of November 2010, titled ‘’Stalemate in Southern Thailand’’ – http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/asia/south-east-asia/thailand/B113%20-%20Stalemate%20in%20Southern%20Thailand.ashx