Troubles in the South – October-December 2004

Troubles in the South - October-December 2004

Troubles in the South index page

Editorial: Challenges Before Bangkok - Arab News, December 25, 2004
[Notable in that it shows how the Tak Bai incident moved the problems in the South from a Thai to a world issue.]

More 'safety zones' to be set up in Bangkok - TNA, December 25, 2004
The metropolitan police plan to set up nine 'safety zones' in Bangkok, backed by an extensive closed-circuit television network, by early next year.
The metropolitan police, in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University, have already set up what is described as the ‘safety zones’ in Siam Square and Khao Sarn Road, two of the Thai capital’s most popular shopping districts and the areas which attract many young tourists...

The terrorist training photos
- December 25, 2004
It seems that the Bangkok Post is not going to report on the controversy over the Prime Minister's photos of insurgents training in Malaysia at all. The Nation and the Thai-language press are reporting on this issue: Humiliating discovery, The Nation, December 24, 2004
Update: The Post finally chimes in with an article: Erroneous photos 'taint ponoh schools' , Bangkok Post, December 26, 2004

'South Thailand, next Kashmir?' - Financial Express, December 25, 2004
Less notable for the info in the article than how some in India are viewing the Southern problems.

Government denies school photos are those of alleged militia - AP, December 24, 2004
...On Friday, The Nation newspaper printed photos purportedly of young boys dressed in military costumes after a sports day parade in southern Pattani province (Humiliating discovery, The Nation, December 24, 2004). The school's director told the daily that these were the photos Sutham thought showed Thais at a militant training camp...
But the minister said he had different prints and that the school photos were not part of his evidence.
"The pictures that I have are different from the ones published in the papers, and (the ones I have) show the militia training in the jungle along the Thai-Malaysia border," Sutham told The Associated Press in a telephone interview...

Thai army says be alert for saboteurs, offers tips
- AlertNet, December 23, 2004
Bangkok residents should be on the lookout for suspicious packages and saboteurs disguised as camera-clicking tourists, the Thai army says in a new anti-terror handbook.
The seven-page booklet, entitled "Joint Thai Cooperation in Maintaining Public Security", is being handed out amid fears that the capital may be targeted by militants blamed for months of violence in Thailand's mainly Muslim south...
"Their eyes are constantly surveying areas and they like to whisper to their companions. They would avoid using credit cards to complicate any attempts to trace them, and when asked about their nationality, would look uncomfortable," the handbook says...

Indonesia insurgents planning attacks - AP, December 23, 2004
Terrorists are plotting attacks next year at tourist resorts across Thailand, according to documents found in the house of a fugitive leader of the country's Islamic insurgency, a senior security official said...
'Thai Muslims condemn Thaksin' - Straits Times, December 19, 2004
Right: Note the prominent headline in the Malaysian papers on Monday. (Update: We originally identified The New Straits Times as a Singaporean newspaper--this is not correct. Chatchawal Phansopa points out that The Straits Times is a Singaporean newspaper while The New Straits Times is a Malaysian newspaper.)
Community and religious leaders in southern Thailand have expressed disappointment over their Prime Minister s remark that Malaysia provided a training ground for Thai Muslim militants...

Supreme commander says southern militants lack capacity to attack Bangkok - TNA, December 20, 2004
Thailand's Supreme Commander Gen. Chaisit Shinawatra said on Monday that he believed the southern militants have had no capacity to attack the capital city of Bangkok, but the Royal Thai Army has been on a full alert to act against any threats...

Terror attacks to hit Thailand in Jan: Official - Agence France-Presse,
Bangkok, December 17
[While it is entirely possible that something like this is in the works, in this political season, with enormously high stakes for Thai politics, it is hard to say whether there is subterfuge behind this revelation by an anonymous source.]
...The attacks would be staged in the five southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Satun, as well as the capital Bangkok in order to promote the struggle for an independent Muslim state in the south of the predominantly Buddhist kingdom, he said.
"According to their plan the large-scale attacks, by means of remote control bombs in five provinces and Bangkok, would be prolonged and severe, as they have stockpiled lots of ammunition," the security source, assigned to work on southern violence, told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The reason why they have to stage attacks in Bangkok is to prevent the central government from sending additional troops to the South," he added...

PM dismisses reports of unrest in Bangkok - TNA, December 18, 2004
...Mr. Thaksin told journalists that reports of plans to sabotage the capital were unfounded and city's residents should not panic.
More suspects behind the violent unrest in the South are expected to be arrested soon as officials have sufficient evidence, he said...

Paper crane drop - December 5, 2004

Right: Origami crane box - November 29, 2004 - Box at Silom Complex for the public to donate paper cranes to be dropped over the South.

Thai military drops payloads for peace over troubled southern provinces - AP, December 5, 2004
...The first birds were dropped at 9:09 a.m. (0209 GMT), an auspicious hour because the number nine is considered lucky in Asian cultures.
Military officials said Sunday that 54 planes, including giant C-130 transports, would be used to carry out the airdrops. The sorties were to wind up late Sunday with a flyby of planes in formation pulling banners with best wishes to the monarch and leaving smoke trails in the colors of Thailand's red, white and blue flag...
Officials have tried to stir up excitement--and encourage people to help clean up a potentially huge litter problem--by specially marking some birds for prizes and offering rewards to people who collect large quantities.
One bird folded and signed by the prime minister carries a scholarship if found by a child, or a job for an adult.
Province residents who collect 50,000 birds can get a bicycle, 10,000 birds a table fan, and 250 birds a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of sugar, said Yala Gov. Boonyasit Suwannarat.
The government says the collected paper will be recycled to print messages promoting peace and religious harmony.

Thai PM in paper peace bid - Aljazeera, December 5, 2004
...Children ran in excitement in one village as the plane appeared several thousand feet overhead at the time promised and, although the unloading of the birds was invisible to the naked eye, the paper birds descended.
Unfortunately the wind blew them beyond the village.
"I'm really disappointed," said 11-year-old Fatima Sulhong. "All I saw was the plane flying over."
Thaksin's bird campaign, just weeks before a general election, caught the imagination of the predominantly Buddhist country, even in Bangkok where sympathy for the Malay-speaking south is limited...

Thai air force drops 97 million origami birds on southern Thailand - Khaleej Times, December 5, 2004
The Thai air force launched one of its biggest military operations in recent history on Sunday, dispatching 51 aircraft to drop 97 million origami paper cranes on Thailand’s troubled deep south to bring peace to the region.
An armada of Hercules 130s, Nomads, BG-37 carriers, Cesna planes, AU-23 fighters, Bell helicopters and a handful of small civilian aircraft began lifting off, packed with paper birds, from Had Yai military airport at 9:09 a.m., deemed an auspicious time. The task force was bound for Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.
“This is a huge task for the air force,” said Royal Thai Air Force combat commander Air Chief Marshal Tharit Pukthasuk, director of the origami operation. “We will try to drop as many birds as possible.”
The planes have been instructed to fly at 650 metres and higher in risky areas, to avoid being shot at from the ground, but will otherwise try to fly at low altitude, said Tharit...

100m paper cranes to be air-dropped over South - Bangkok Post, December 4, 2004
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday handed over to the Air Force about 100 million paper cranes to be dropped over the deep South tomorrow.
Mr Thaksin, joined by senior government officials and hundreds of school children, also saw off a C-130 aircraft taking the paper cranes to the South.
The paper cranes, well beyond the target of 62 million, would be dropped tomorrow to mark the birthday of His Majesty the King over the three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and some parts of Songkhla that have been hit by violence this year.
The air-drop was inspired by Her Majesty the Queen's recent speech which called on Thais to join a concerted national effort to bring an end to the violence...

What was in the jihadists' book? - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from mThai, December 3, 2004
Shiekul Islam Office (Chularatchamontri office) has finished the writing of "Explanations of the Facts against the Distortions of Islam from Ber Jihad di Patani" [Struggling at Pattani]. This is to explain and refute the statements in a book seized from the dead Jihadists at Kru Seh. That book said that jihadists should kill the following people:
1) People who are not Muslim (Kafir + Mushrik)
2) Muslim who are not cooperating with the jihadists--even though those people are their own parents and relatives (Munafik)
It said only the supporters of jihadists deserve to live. The goal is to revive the Kingdom of Patani and allow the royal family of Kelantan to become the rulers of the Patani Kingdom. There would be no religion other than Islam in the same way Saudi Arabia practices now (Darussalam).

NTV7 crew unearths ‘secret’ Tak Bai video -, December 3, 2004 (Login required--get your login here)

A tale of two newspapers: the security decree - December 2, 2004
The Post has a 'just the facts article," even managing to mention origami cranes, while The Nation has a long article with plenty of perspective and followed up with another front pages story the next day that included critical viewpoints.

Police chief wants wider powers of detention - Bangkok Post, December 1, 2004
Police should be allowed to detain suspects longer for interrogation in security-related cases and be given more equipment to better cope with violence in the deep South, national police chief Kowit Wattana said yesterday...

DEEP SOUTH: Severe security decree mulled - The Nation, December 1, 2004
...Thaksin wanted the “the Singaporean and Malaysian examples” to be studied before a Thai version of a national security law is composed, the sources said. While it remained unclear as to what aspects of the neighbouring countries’ anti-terrorism laws might be copied, they give police virtually unchecked power to detain suspects without trial...

SECURITY DECREE FOR DEEP SOUTH: Police seek sweeping powers - The Nation, December 2, 2004
...“A decree like that would be inappropriate in a democratic society such as ours,” Karun said. “No Thai government has so far had the nerve to pass such a decree, other than those ruled by military dictators,” he added...

Rivalry hurting terror fight? - The New Paper, November 30, 2004
...But insiders said infighting between the police and military may have sparked the outbreak of violence in Thailand's restive region.
...Late last year, the killing of police officers worried the authorities. More than a dozen were killed, many while riding their motorcycles and most by a single bullet, likely by snipers. Why were police officers being targeted?
Until late last year, the southern region was controlled by the military. Many of the conscripts were from villages in the south.
Part of their duty, not unlike the Indonesian territorial battalions, was to help farmers with everyday emergencies, like shoring up village dykes.
An academic based in the south, who declined to be named, said: 'When the Thai government dissolved the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, the army was effectively removed from the leading role in security arrangement.
'A number of the military's informants have been exposed and killed since then - close to 20 so far.'
It stemmed, he said, from inter-agency rivalry...

The local press and patriotism
Wisarut writes: This Thai-language news on the South condemns the media that adds too many colors to the Southern insurgency since they consider the Southern Insurgency as "another commodity" to write about without caring about the consequences.
More Thai-language articles from Manager Daily:
The Premier Thaksin threatens to walk out of ASEAN summit in Vienchan (and here)
The threat from PULO about a reward for shooting Thai officers is just a minor thing
Three patriotic senators fighting back against the MPs and senators in the Malaysian parliament

'20 Thai girls still missing in southern Thailand' - The Star, November 22, 2004
[This is what the Malaysian papers are reporting.]
Twenty female students from various sekolah pondok (village schools) in southern Thailand are among the 50 still missing after being involved in the tragedy in front of the Tak Bai police station on Oct 25.
Mingguan Malaysia reported that all the students, aged between 15 and 19, had not returned home after taking part in the protests held in front of the police station...
The weekly also quoted Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as saying that Asean should make the move to discuss matters that could negatively affect people’s perception of Asean and threaten the security of member countries...

The media discusses "Communication of the Truth in the South" - translated and summarized by Asiper from Manager Online, November 21, 2004
[Here is a summary of this article and thread from Manager Daily pointed out by Wisarut earlier this week.]
"I‘m very disappointed in the media. They should have understanding. If the media does not reveal the truth fully, we may have an uncontrolled situation in 10 years," said Senator John Ungpakorn at the seminar on “Communication of the Truth in the South" held on November 19 at Chulalongkorn University. It was organized by the Communication Arts Faculty and the Subcommittee of Media Reform, the Senate Commission of Social Development and Human Security.
At the beginning a video was shown of the of Takbai incident narrated by Mr. Niran Pitakwatchara, Chairperson of the Senate Commission of Social Development and Human Security. The other speakers agreed that If we need peace and want to solve problems correctly, we have to speak the truth. Actually many innocent people were beaten, killed, and detained such as the five charged with stealing guns. When the lawyer Somchai helped them, he was kidnapped [and remains missing and presumed murdered].
In the opinion of The Nation Group reporters, people do not want to solve economic problems of the South, but they do want law and order. The biased view of the media presents maintaining justice a main goal. Nowadays there is the mood to make violence in Thai society. The media's duty should be to reduce this trend and stop conflict by paying attention to the headlines they use and the news they write.
Bangkok Post said the mainstream media pays attention to the news of the government which is a kind of nationalism. This view is that a minority makes the problems and wants to split from the country. It is obvious that this kind of media do not know or understand the Southern problems or Islam.
Prachatai newspaper online said that nowadays most of news presentation in only one view and very sensitive to official positions. It seems like the situation is like a dictatorship.
Dr. Peera Jirasophon, the Dean of Communication Arts Faculty, Chulalongkorn University, said society is facing a crisis of news and truth which breaks society. People think they do not get the full news or in another way they only get harmful news and vague insinuations. The Prime Minister should get a degree on the art of propaganda which was born in the Hitler era. At the conclusion, he added that the Takbai tragedy news shows the restrictions and culture of the media--that they just report the daily situation, but do not analyze the cause. The media should not present feeling instead of truth. It should be separate.

More articles on the South - November 26, 2004

THAI TALK : The South: contradictions continue almost daily - The Nation, November 25, 2004
... We have come to the inevitable and depressing conclusion: the more confident the tone of the official statement, the more uncertain we know the government is in regard to what really is taking place down there.
The general atmosphere of cynicism has in fact deepened. If the government leaders offer some off-the-cuff statements about the unending violence in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani, the sceptics now tend to think the opposite is true.
When the PM declared not so long ago that the problems down South would be resolved in three months, the cynics soon came to realise that things would get worse after 90 days.
When government leaders stated categorically, “We know who’s behind the series of attacks on our government officials in the South,” the cynics almost immediately concluded that the leaders had no clue who was responsible for the provocative acts, which have defied all government threats to clamp down on subversive elements....
Contradictions continue to run parallel with the ceaseless violence. One day, it’s “the work of just a small group of drug addicts and jobless youngsters”. The next day, the blame shifts to “a malicious web of ill-
intentioned masterminds with political connections across the southern border”.

Nets in trees to offer safe landing for millions of paper cranes - Bangkok Post, November 25, 2004
Villagers are being asked to hang nets in trees to catch the millions of paper peace-cranes to be dropped over the deep South from air force planes.
Authorities are confident the paper birds, to be scattered over Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat on His Majesty the King's birthday, Dec 5, will not all end up as litter--as Muslim leaders predict...

Bangkok's handling of Thailand's troubled Muslim south rankles with Malay neighbours - Financial Times, November 25 2004
More than 2,000 Malaysians in the northern borderstate of Kelantan recently gathered in a vast Islamic education centre to say special prayers for Muslims living in conflict zones.
While they prayed for Muslims in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, their most fervent prayers were for Muslims in neighbouring Thailand, where 87 ethnic Malay Muslims died last month when Thai soldiers quelled a protest outside a police station.
Fiery speakers from Malaysia's fundamentalist opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (Pas) and other Islamic organisations denounced Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, and demanded Kuala Lumpur do more to help Thai Muslims in the area that once was the independent sultanate of Pattani.
"It is time for Pattani to fight the Siamese kafirs [unbelievers]," said Zainuddin Abdullah of the Kelantan Labour Federation. "We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters in southern Thailand to fight Siam."...

Trouble in Thailand - The Independent, November 19, 2004
Also see yesterday's A tale of two newspapers: HM The Queen's speech
A huge upsurge in sectarian violence, including beheadings and bombings, is bringing chaos to southern provinces, where Muslims outnumber Buddhists. The royal family has issued a call to arms, but the police and army have little idea who they are fighting...

A tale of four newspapers: Which one is wrong? - November 21, 2004

Thailand rejects U.N. probe into deaths - The Washington Times, November 18, 2004

Thailand says no to UN probe of Muslim deaths - Reuters, November 18, 2004

Thailand turns down UN request to investigate southern killings - Khaleej Times, November 18, 2004

Thailand to Cooperate with UN Probe into Violent Clashes - Voice of America, November 18, 2004
...Thai government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair says the government is willing to cooperate with any investigation by the United Nations.
"Our standpoint is that if the United Nations feels strongly that this needs to be investigated some more as a lesson for everybody, the Thai government is agreeable, and we would try to accommodate as much as we can," he said...

A tale of two newspapers: HM The Queen's speech - November 19, 2004
Yesterday the Thai-language world was abuzz with speculation on whether the Nation Group and other anti-government leaning press correctly reported the tone of HM The Queen's speech on November 16, 2004 about the Southern troubles...

Professor's comment on TV - November 18, 2004
Fascinating thread that demonstrates the parallel lines of Thai political thought...

'Why Thailand needs outside help to end conflict' - The Star Online, November 16, 2004
...Sadly but truly, his popularity, which was on the way down before Tak Bai, has suddenly surged in the north and north-east, Thai Rak Thai strongholds. Immediately, the party’s top echelon raised its benchmark and expected to win at least 370 parliamentary seats in the 2005 election, up from 270 before Tak Bai!
Judging from this sentiment, it is hard to foresee any solution in the near term. After all, if this current situation persists, with a harsh governmental response, Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai will probably obtain more votes by fanning the flames of nationalism...

The media as political actors - The Star, November 14, 2004
Wisarut found this book review that exactly describes some of the press issues covered on
...The case of Thailand makes for an interesting contrast, and McCargo paints an arguably more textured and compelling picture. His points of departure are the controversies that erupted in the mid-1990s, and the critical coverage of Thai politics in the international press that were subsequently “recycled” by the local media for their own purposes.
Bear in mind that the Thai-language press is known to be one of the freest and outspoken in the region. Thus, as essentially independent political actors, they have considerable autonomy to pursue their own, respective partisan-flavoured news agenda, sometimes much to the chagrin of the aggrieved individual politician.
There is also a tendency, according to McCargo, for the Thai press to adroitly recycle foreign coverage of domestic politics. A common technique would be the placing of foreign news stories with a Thai dimension as front page leads to gain political mileage.
Thus, "a domestic publication wishing to criticise a Thai politician will seek to establish the credibility and international status of the foreign voice, so as to demonstrate that the foreign voice stands above the domestic ‘game’."
Sometimes, this approach involves a "wilful misreading of stories in the international press, exaggerating their criticisms of domestic politics.” In short, the most important function of international media coverage of Thai politics is a resource from which domestic media may draw as "a source of agency for restraining power holders and even for promoting political change"...

News of disappearances - November 11, 2004
This is a time of uncertainty in Thailand and rumors of the 'disappeared'--a staple in every Thai civil upheaval--have appeared again. Interesting that The Nation has chosen not to cover this.
Forty Tak Bai rioters 'missing' - Bangkok Post, November 9, 2004
Govt denies rumours of Tak Bai ‘disappearances’ - TNA, November 9, 2004

Fear of the insurgency
- November 12, 2004
Wisarut reports: On Rai Subdah (Thailand Weekly) in Channel 9 on November 4, Khun Sonthi (the owner of Manager Group) warned that now PULO and BRN have trained brainwashed Muslims by disguising them as passengers to travel up north to Ranong, Tak, or even Chiangmai. They will ride boats to Burma and then walk all the way to Bangkaladesh. Some even go to Ache to learn how to fight against the Indonesian army and get training on how to fire a rifle with high accuracy from a motorcycles. Also how to detonate bombs with cellular phones. They have adapted the Vietcong way and rely on the Muslim network inside Thailand as well as in Malaysia, Burma and Bangladesh.

PAS threatens to sue Thai paper - AFP, November 11, 2004
Malaysia's hardline opposition Islamic Party (PAS) Wednesday threatened to sue Thailand's Bangkok Post newspaper over allegations that it had instigated Muslims in southern Thailand to rebel against the government.
"PAS categorically deny that either PAS or its Youth Wing is involved, in instigating the Muslims of southern Thailand to rebel against the Thai government," PAS secretary-general Nasharuddin Mat Isa said in a statement...

An historical perspective on the South - The Nation, November 09, 2004
...Instead of referring to the capital as Krungthep or even Bangkok, the website [] referred to Bangkok as “Phra Nakorn”, a term that refers to the capital of Siam at the time of the Ayutthaya era.
With that comes the baggage of history, of centuries of war and subjugation, mostly by Siamese troops. It’s undeniable that Thai-Malay Muslim separatists in Pattani want to regain the glory and independence of the Islamic kingdom of Patani that was incorporated into Thailand just a century ago.
...In the early Bangkok period, from the reign of King Rama I to King Rama III, Malay Muslim villagers were forcibly uprooted from Pattani to Bangkok after Siamese troops suppressed a rebellion, or invaded Pattani, depending whose point of view one adopts. The biggest lot of captured villagers transported to Bangkok numbered up to 4,000. The largest number of troops dispatched from Bangkok was 300,000, during the reign of King Rama III, led by Dij Bunnag in 1832, after Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin of Pattani tried to liberate his land from Siamese control.
...Soon after the Anglo-Thai Treaty of 1909, in which Britain formally acknowledged Pattani as part of Siam, Tengku Abdul Kadir, the last ruler of the Pattani State, led a revolt. But he was eventually captured and imprisoned in Phitsanulok for 10 years. He later lived in exile in Kelantan, Malaysia, while his son fruitlessly carried the torch...

'Colonisation reason for southern Thai conflict' -, November 9, 2004
[Perhaps the most troubling and infuriating issue for Thais now that the 'Southern problems' have blown into truly international proportions are foreign commentaries--especially from Malaysia--suggesting that the problems of the South are real because the people there are not really Thai.]
We have to understand that the history of the southern Thailand is a clear cut case of Thai imperialism and colonisation. The southern Thai people are in fact Malays by race and Muslims by religion. They speak the Malay language...
...Given the historical background of southern Thailand, there is no other way to end this bloody conflict except by allowing the southern Thai people to determine their own destiny. And this calls for nothing less than a referendum.

Thaksin says HM The King wants govt to soften approach in the South - AFP, November 1, 2004
...Thailand's monarch in a rare intervention has urged the government to soften its approach to turmoil in the mainly Muslim south where two more people died Monday, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said...

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