OK, we know the insurgency problems in south Thailand. It has been going on for years. A problem that has historical, religious and political elements, made worse by Bangkok’s marginalisation of one of its outposts, the issue came to a head in recent times by an atrocity by Thai military heavy handedness. The argument that Muslim insurgents had killed innocents, people such as teachers and Buddhist monks, doesn’t hold much water because government troops should not have descended down to the level of terrorists.
Now the conflict has gotten worse. Insurengts have not only killed two marines but tortured them in the process. The Thai authorities are pretty pissed off.
But even more drastic for the insurgents, Thai public opinion have turned angrily against the terrorists. Political observers suggested that the Thais have been so shocked by the savagery of the atrocity that the PM feels he now has the mandate to adopt very stern measures. I believe the insurgents have crossed the line of public tolerance to their detriment. This is an example of a military objective gone wrong. From a politico-military fight for independence or autonomy, the terrorists have descended to sheer criminal sadistic savagery.
Precisely because of that, the outrage of the Thai people, the Thai Prime Minister has vowed to restore law and order in the region, and has put his money where his mouth is – he’s taking personal charge. He’s basically assuming responsibility for the success of the anti-terrorist campaign he’s about to launch.
He said "I will take responsibility for anything that goes wrong from now. If I don't do the job well during the next three years, don't vote me back in. "If I violate the law you can seek legal action against me."
When a nation's political head, who will face the people's opinion in the next general election, puts his political neck on the chopping block, you may bet he’s going to take all measures, repeat, all measures to ensure he comes up tops. I bet more than just troops will be poured into the region.
As the Islamist militants are known to slip across the southern border into and from Muslim dominated Malaysia, especially its north-eastern state of Kelantan where they enjoy the support, covert or otherwise, of many kinfolks and co-religionist sympathisers, Malayisa may be drawn into the Thai turmoil.
Thus a Malaysian minister has expressed concerns about the conflict, and proposed ASEAN mediation to help resolve the animosity.
The Malaysian making the suggestion is none other than Malaysia's Education Minister, Hishammudin Hussein. Hishamuddin has made those comments undoubtedly with also his own political constituency and worries about domestic politics in mind.
Another unfortunate and indirect involvement in the brutal killings of the marines had been the presence of some Malaysian journalists who were called in by the insurgents to provide more sympathetic reporting. Though the Thai negotiators had allowed this, the action has outraged the Thai authorities. Thus it’s not entirely surprising that the Thai PM Thaksin has virtually responded with a ‘thanks but no thanks and f*** off’.
He has correctly classified the torture and killing of the marines as a domestic law and order issue, but he said that if Malaysia really wants to help, it could do so by preventing the Islamist militants from slipping across the border.
By contrast to Hishammudin’s perceived interference with Thai domestic affairs, Malaysia’s Deputy PM, Najib Tun Razak has assured the Thais that Malaysia will not interfere in its domestic affairs. In fact, he stated that Malaysian authorities will tighten security to prevent militants from using Malaysia as a base to launch attacks into Thailand. He also advised Malaysian journalists to be more aware of Thai feelings and avoid involvement in any such affairs that could be misinterpreted as unhelpful foreign interference.