Troubles in the South – July 2006

Troubles in the South - July 2006
Troubles in the South index page



(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Shooting in Yala - July 6, 2006
Mr. John reports: At Ban Kiyor, Mu 4, Thambon Purong, Amphur Krongpinang, Yala, officers investigated the place the assailants shot Mr. Karing Yama, employee of Urgent Work Project. He died while on his way to a garden.


(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

The exposure of Laloh commune in the red zone after school teacher shooting - translated and summarized from Thai Journalists Association, July 24, 2006

The shooting of Prasan Makchu, a school teacher at Ban Bueraeng school situated in Moo 1 of Laloh commune in the Rueso district of Narathiwat on 24 July was not the first crime against school teachers and other government officers working in the area. It is one of the most dangerous areas and has a high frequency of violence and crimes that have continuously occurred over the past two years.
On January 29, an armed band of at least 10 militants with AK and M16 rifles killed 2 navy personnel at Laloh railway station. For this crime, police detained 2 suspects for interrogation. On May 10, villagers held the two female school teachers, Juling Pongkunmul and her friend for bargaining with authorities. The incident finally ended in a tragedy that saddened the entire country. When the largest bomb crime in the south recently occurred, Laloh railway station was the targeted place. Fortunately there were no injuries.
Laloh has never been clear of violence and crimes during the past 2 years. In 2005 alone, a total of 10 crimes were committed. The crimes varied and included shooting attacks with guns or rifles by combatants on motorcycles. There were raids on an army unit located in the area of Ban Thai Suk temple, bombardments of government offices, bomb attacks on security forces, etc. These incidents caused damage to property and many deaths, not only to civilians but also government officers.
All these dangerous crimes committed in Laloh area are believed to be supported by a powerful member of the BRN (Barasi Revolusi Nasional) Coordinate group. He is reported by intelligence sources to be Usoh, also known as Sofh Toh-Luenoh and Ustas Soh as per the police arrest warrant.
Ustas Soh has the position of regional chief and his responsibility covers Laloh commune, Rueso commune, Rueso district, Tammayong commune, Chengkiri commune and Srisakorn district, all in Narathiwat province. He is the direct commander of Permudor or The Youth for Pattani United divisions of BRN Coordinate.
Laloh needs to be carefully watched as it is one of the most dangerous areas in the list hazardous places and seemingly draws special attention as can be seen from the history of continuous violence and crimes.
Four dead in Thailand after wave of attacks - AP, August 3, 2006
[It seems this largest coordinated wave of bombings ever has been very lightly reported in the English-language press.]
Thailand upgrades military communication to tackle southern unrest - Bernama, July 28,2006
Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin ordered the military telecommunications system in the violence-plagued deep South to be improved, so as to increase the efficiency of the army's counter-insurgency operations...
Peace stays far away in southern Thailand - atimes, March 15, 2006
...Mahkota indicated that his group was willing to compromise. "Our initial goal was independence for Patani," he said. "But the world has changed and we are willing to discuss other solutions than a total breakaway. The main thing is to get the Thai authorities to the negotiating table..."

Muslims of southern Thailand unclear over new Islamic party policy - Bernama, July 10, 2006
The newly-formed Santiparp Thai (Peaceful Thailand) Party, which aims to be the voice of the Muslim community of southern Thailand, may have its work cut out for it...
What the disappeared leave behind - Bangkok Post, July 9, 2006
Southern Thailand 40 years ago - A different viewpoint from a foreign researcher - translated and summarized from the Thai Journalist's Association News, article by Supaporn Kanjanaweerayothin, July 16, 2006
It was almost 40 years ago that Professor M. Ladd Thomas of the University of Northern Illinois visited Thailand for 10 months. Thomas interviewed local villagers and administrators in 120 villages in Thailand's three southernmost provinces for his research submission to the National Research Council on "Malay Muslims and their attitude towards economic and social development."
Professor Thomas is now back in Thailand to update his research. Here is some information from his original research to allow us to compare the past and present of the region.
Thomas's pre-research preparation involved studying the Malay language for 3 months so that he could effectively interview ordinary local residents. He interviewed three or four families in each of 120 villages before finalizing his research conclusions.
Thomas's research showed that Southern Thai Muslims main concern was their local education system. The second most important issue for them was the state of local roads and infrastructure and the third was the local medical system. Thomas reported no violence during his research period. Most locals appeared to lead a peaceful life despite the nearby presence of forces of the Communism Party of Malaysia (CPM). The CPM was largely engaged in its struggle with the Malaysian authorities and rarely came into conflict with the Thai armed forces at that time.
Thomas noticed that the local Malay population detested government officials. These officials often referred to them as 'khaek'--a derogatory Thai term reserved for Indians and others who supposedly resembled Indians. Government officials often used this term for local villagers with no apparent thought that it might cause offense.
Thomas also discovered that none of the policemen working in the southern provinces were able to speak Malay despite it being the native language of the majority of the local population. He also found that none of the villagers he questioned could speak Thai--not even the village headmen [Puyaibahn]. This greatly limited the communication between local residents and their administrators. The last resort for many villagers was the Kamnan [Commune Headman] who could sometimes speak Thai. Kamnans were usually the first contact when local residents wanted to communicate with the police. None of the questioned villagers reported receiving even the slightest satisfaction from visiting a police station.
Apart from the communication difficulties, there was another obstacle to the local relationship between policemen and villagers. It was also locally perceived that justice could only be obtained by those paying "private" fees to policemen. It was also perceived that there was no sincerity in the service provided by government officials. This was the original reason why local people were loath to inform government officials of their plight. Instead, they took such problems to their village headmen or local Islamic religious leaders.
The infrastructure in the southern region 40 years ago was not very well-developed and there were great difficulties traveling from place to place. Police would usually make only an annual visit to some villages and only the Deputy District Chief ['Balat Amphur'] usually had a jeep to travel around his patch. Only a few low-ranking officials bothered to learn to speak Malay. Such officials soon found themselves able to socialize with local people and often voiced their appreciation of the generosity of the villagers to their visitors.

Muslim leaders disagree with NSC idea to close down "tadika" schools fearing further unrest may result - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit, July 19, 2006
The director of a ponoh [an Islamic school] and a prominent academic have recently voiced their disagreement with the National Security Council (NSC) plan to close down "tadika" schools in the three southernmost provinces with both critics saying they fear that local unrest might intensify as a result of this policy.
[A "tadika" school is a primary school at a mosque that focuses on religious instruction. It is controlled by the Islamic committee in each province and the Education Ministry.]
Abdulrohni Kahama, Secretary-General of Islamic Boarding Schools Association in the five southernmost provinces [presumably Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Satun], says that the NSC's plan is not at all practical, as the local unrest will intensify if these schools are closed down. Many other organizations also disagree with the plan, as do the mosques in which a number of the tadika schools are based. Abdulrohni believes that the government's problem-solving strategies are not addressing the real issues behind the unrest. He points out that the tadika schools are now under the supervision of the Ministry of Education which theoretically makes it impossible to close them down. He also wants the government to stop thinking of tadika schools as places for insurgents to gather.
Ahmad Somboon Bualuang, a prominent academic and former National Reconciliation Committee member, recently described the NSC plan as ridiculous. He described how tadika school curricula are different from those of ordinary schools as they teach Islamic religious belief and practice. He noted that tadika schools are already carefully supervised by both their relevant Provincial Islamic Committee and the Ministry of Education, and warned that government closure of the schools could lead to a huge reduction in social prestige for local Islamic leaders. He felt that this might intensify the unrest in the region. He suggested that the government still had a lot to learn about the educational system in the deep south.

Big Trouble In Thailand - Yahoo, July 26, 2006
[Recently we have detected a wave of rather alarmist articles and blogs that seem to be agitating for U.S. action in a number of places--most often Iran. This article below fits in the pattern. The reality is that while there is danger of foreign involvement in the deep south of Thailand, thus far the pattern of attacks and methods of the separatists there do not mirror at all the patterns of al-Qaida or international Islamist struggles. However, the involvement and support of the local authorities for the separatists is greater than the media lets on.]
Global War On Terror: Thailand, the Land of Smiles, is close to becoming yet another front in the global war on terror. A bloody Islamic insurgency in the south has already left 1,400 dead. And al-Qaida may be fueling it...
Muslims seen as sympathetic to the government are also attacked. Earlier this month, a Muslim who was active in local politics was killed outside a mosque, apparently because he maintained friendly ties with the government. Such sectarian attacks mirror those seen in Iraq and Afghanistan...
Last year, authorities found a video of an al-Qaida training session among items seized at a school in Pattani. Some of the terrorists have attended al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They may have sanctuary across the border in northern Malaysia, with groups tied to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked terror group that blew up Western tourist spots in Bali in 2002 and 2005...
The U.S. must respond in kind. We must show unequivocal support for Bangkok in its efforts against becoming al-Qaida's next domino. More U.S. military aid and training should also be in order.
Much is at stake. Al-Qaida, which recently seized Somalia, already has its claws in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
If terrorists weaken Thailand's government, al-Qaida would have a major footprint in Southeast Asia. Does the world want that?

Officials say international terrorists have no foothold in Thailand - The Nation, July 27, 2006

Army chief not yet 'officially' given authority to resolve southern unrest - TNA, July 27, 2006

(Photo: Dr. Has for 2Bangkok.com)

Health fair in Yala - July 30, 2006
Dr. Has reports: Yala Municipality opens a health test and body efficiency fair. There are lots of people come to participate. Mr. Pongsak Yingchoncharoen was the chairperson of the opening ceremony.



(Photo: Dr. Has for 2Bangkok.com)
Giving scholarships - July 21, 2006

Dr. Has reports: On July 21, the Education Center Office, zone 1 of Yala organized a ceremony to give 60 education scholarships (above)--"Education Fund project of the 60th anniversary access to the throne." The funds were donated by the Rotary Club of Yala and from Ajarn (professor) Au.
Mr. Pakorn Nitcharankul, Governor of International Rotary, was the chairperson of the ceremony and deliver wheel chair for Kroo Jintana Tongpaen, Luemu teacher who was shot on February 3 and could not walk since then.

 

(Photo: Dr. Has for 2Bangkok.com)

Tracing the strategies of bombers - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, July 7, 2006
The southern unrest has intensified in terms of the types of bombs used by the insurgents. Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratklin has recently been assigned [by Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra] to tackle the southern unrest after the recent occurrence of fifty simultaneous bombings in the three southern border provinces. General Sonthi is reported to be concerned about bomb attacks that target the vehicles of government officials as they are hard to prevent and often cause serious injuries and extensive damage.
Police Major General Amporn Charuchinda, a bomb expert, has recently reported that most of the bombs used in the deep south are homemade--having been made from materials commonly used in the mining industry. He added that he has yet to detect high-grade military explosives being used by the region's terrorists.
However, Amporn warned that most militants were usually capable of improving the quality of their explosive devices in the long term. Amporn described how, as recently as 2004, militants had packed urea-based bombs into plastic food containers. These bombs were not as powerful as those made from dynamite, but were still capable of inflicting fatal injuries.
The bombers have more recently replaced urea with ammonium nitrate and have also begun packing their devices into metal containers. The newer bombs are, inevitably, more powerful than those made from urea.
Early in 2005, the terrorists began making far more powerful bombs from fire extinguishers. The blast of these bombs is sufficient to totally wreck road vehicles and railroad tracks. So far, the authorities have noted the use of 60 fire extinguisher bombs by the terrorists.
>From 2004 until August 2005, bombers were usually able to plant bombs with impunity in any area of the region they chose. The bombs were usually detonated by a call to an attached mobile phone or by command wire. The militants have changed their strategy since September 2005 as they now ambush the survivors of their bomb attacks.
The number of terrorist bomb attacks increased from 106 in 2004, to 273 in 2005. To date this year, 118 explosions have been reported.
Three arrested bombing suspects have confessed that some bombs have been imported from Malaysia while others are produced in Thailand. They also confessed that the aims of their attacks were to destroy people's confidence in the government, kill security and government personnel, intimidate local people and destroy the local economy. Their overarching aim was to intimidate Thai Buddhists into relocating out of the region.

Sonthi attempting to separate militants from innocents - Locals still fear arbitrary arrest - translated and summarized by Komchadluek, July 5, 2006
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra recently handed the Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief Sonthi Boonyaratklin a mandate to quell the current unrest in the deep south. General Sonthi recently traveled to Pattani Province to discuss the current problems in the southern border provinces. General Sonthi is insisting on the implementation of his policy of finding ways to separate militants from innocent local citizens.
Nimi Makaje, a former President of the Islamic Committee of Yala Province, recently urged the government to arrest only "known" militants and not those who are only suspected. It has been reported that some high-level government officials are still making arbitrary arrests.

RTAF joins hands with other armed forces to solve the southern insurgency - translated and summarized by Phujatkan, July 6, 2006
Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukbhasuk, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), recently informed the media about the service's support for efforts to solve the southern insurgency. Personnel from air force bases have been promptly pressed into service as reinforcements for ground forces in the south and even ground-support staff have been assigned to such duties.
The RTAF security base at Bo Thong has also been fully re-equipped. [Bo Thong is another name for Pattani Airport, which is in a commune of the same name in the province's Nong Chik District.] The Pattani base is used for intelligence-gathering, but is now taking on a new role as a center for the rapid and smooth deployment of reinforcements when difficult situations arise.
General Chalit also informed the media that, to ensure the smooth running of effective missions, most of the air force officers deployed in the region are originally from the south. These officers are also given longer term tours-of-duty than is common elsewhere in the country. Air force personnel in the region may also soon be awarded scholarships to study the Malay language if they show an interest. In the near future, RTAF may also provide scholarships for local young people to attend school.


(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Almost like being there: Marching against Thaksin in the South - July 14, 2006
Mr. John reports: On July 14, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) marched in Hat Yai, Songkhla Province with the banners reading "Southern people are not afraid of you, Ai Thaksin" and "Thaksin Get Out." They also ignited firecrackers. This political activity was being conducted when PAD marchers in Bangkok went to submit letters to six embassies to counter Thaksin's letter to U.S. President Bush. There were many persons from many organization coming to criticize the PM for a "lack of maturity" in writing the letter. PAD in Songkhla held the protest on the day of the anniversary of setting up the TRT party [8 years ago].


(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Bomb tunnel - The Nation, July 5, 2005
A police investigates a tunnel that suspected militants had dug under a road in Yala's Bannang Sata district. A 10 kilogrames of explosives was placed inside the tunnel and set off Tuesday, hitting a patrolling security unit, injuring one soldier.

Interview with Supalak Kanchanakhundee - NRC does not fail, it just does nothing - translated and summarized from Prachatai.com, week of June 30, 2006
The National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) worked for fifteen months on a report entitled "Unite to Fight Violence." To date, the report has yet to be widely discussed despite being authored by fifty respected people from various fields.
Supalak Kanchanakhundee from The Nation has studied problems in the southern border provinces for ten years. He agrees with the way the NRC identifies problems caused by cultural diversities and identity in the south. However, their proposed solutions to the problems are insufficient. Supalak said that the administrative structure of the three southernmost provinces should be beefed up. He suggested the establishment of special administrative zones to solve problems resulting from a lack of identity within the Melayu Muslim community in the deep south.
The NRC did propose the establishment of a strategic peace building center. But Supalak believes the center will end up being just a center for government officials that does not really help solve problems in the region, as was the case with the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center. Supalak said that the NRC did not study leading militants or major incidents such as Krue Se and Tak Bai. The NRC says it wants to negotiate with the militants, but Supalak wonders how the agency could communicate without knowing anything about them. The NRC cannot distinguish between the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Pattani (BRN) and lacks understanding of the new generation of assailants. The NRC, in fact, considers the militants to be criminals and does not actually want to talk to them.
Agencies working on problems in the deep south should focus on the trust of the local people towards the government. Supalak said that the NRC does not build trust, but causes disagreements and suggests they should be sincere and transparent. The NRC also does not provide enough information to the public about problems in the southernmost provinces. Supalak further doubts the practicability of armed forces and feels they should be composed of people who know Islam, understand local people and can master the art of rhetoric.
Supalak advised that certain proposed solutions should be implemented and one of which is making Melayu an official language in the provinces. But he still does not know what the government will actually do to ease problems in the region.


(Photo: Dr. Has for 2Bangkok.com)

Textbooks with Yawi - July 15, 2006
Dr. Has reports: The Quality Development Thai Language Study Project produced a basic Thai language development textbook which consists of two languages: Thai and Yawi in brackets. This is one of Education Ministries ways to develop Thai language in the southernmost provinces in order to improve the psychological barriers between Thai and Yawi-speaking people.


(Photo: Dr. Has for 2Bangkok.com)

Monitoring the RKK group - Commits 6,000 crimes in one year - translated and summarized from Matichon, June 23, 2006
The name RKK [Runda Kumpulan Kecil] has been mentioned many times during the southern unrest. Executive officials, including Commander-in-Chief Pol. Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Fourth Army regional commander Ongkorn Thongprasom, Region 9 Police Commander Adul Saengsingkaew, and Region 9 Police Deputy Commander Worapong Chiewpreecha, claim that those who commit crimes in the south are members of the RKK group.
After more than fifty crimes had occurred in the three southern border provinces during June 15 and 16, PM Thaksin Shinawatra said that the RKK group was behind the incidents.
What is the RKK exactly? Information from the intelligence unit shows that RKK stands for Runda Kumpulan Kecil, which is a small commando group...
It is believed that the RKK group dominates 500 villages in the three southern provinces with six RKK members in each. There are in total 3,000 RKK members ready to commit crimes in the three southernmost provinces. Groups of five to eight members are trained at a time in 10 to 60 days. It has been found that the trained groups are required to commit at least one crime every month. If all groups follow the target, 6,000 crimes will be committed annually. Coincidentally, RKK is also the name of Indonesian specially trained fighters called Runda Kumpulan Kecil.

Senators and academics complain about government's handling of southern terror - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, June 21, 2006
...Panithan (Professor Panithan Wattanayagorn of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science) went on to comment, "The current situation is gradually becoming more like a civil war. The recent occurrence of 50 bomb attacks in a single day indicates that the current security measures are ineffective. The government also claimed to know in advance the date on which these attacks would occur, but failed to take any kind of action". Panithan also complained that the southern crisis was still a major headache for the country, despite the unrest having been underway for over two years.
He continued, "The situation in Southern Thailand has been categorized as having the same root causes as the unrest in East Timor and Aceh. The south's proximity to these territories makes it almost certain that it shares the same terrorist ringleaders with them. Although many believe that the issue in Southern Thailand is not primarily a separatist one, it is inevitable that the government's reaction to the continuing unrest will be closely observed by other nations."
Delegates of the Islamic Organization Convention (IOC) have also recently complained about the government's handling of the problems in Thailand's three southernmost provinces. Other international organizations are starting to pay attention to the unrest in the south as they are concerned that the situation there might intensify to become even more severe than that which has occurred in Sri Lanka and Indonesia in recent years.


(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Almost like being there: Training - July 1, 2006
Mr. John reports: Front-line officers from the Nation Police Office Operation Center, Yala train in commando techniques for rescuing hostage...


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