Unrest is the norm

15 01 2011

Getting a slot in one of the big U.S. news weeklies has always been taken in Thailand as problematic. This has been more so since the current regime came to power with various accusations against the international media for “failing to understand” or, worse, being in the pay of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This week Thailand got a slot in Newsweek as it talked with some international scholars on the problems in the south.

The take-off point is the observation that  “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva appears eager to show that Thailand is on the mend. In late December, the government lifted the state of emergency that had been in place in the capital for more than eight months, and Abhisit then gave an optimistic end-of-year speech promising stability. As one indication, the cabinet also lifted a much older state of emergency in three districts of Thailand’s troubled Deep South—where successive administrations have been unable to quell an insurgency that since 2004 has claimed more than 4,400 lives.”

Abhisit claimed: “It shows that the government is making progress…” on the south.

Newsweek seems to refute this, citing the analysis of three scholars familiar with the region. Zachary Abuza, a professor at the U.S.’s National War College says: “The violence isn’t down…”. He adds that : “there’s no end to the conflict in sight…”. One of the reasons for this is that: “Harsh military and police tactics, meanwhile, such as detaining suspected insurgents without charge and allegedly using torture, seem only to make things worse.” And, as for lifting the state of emergency, this means little when the Internal Security Act remains in place.

Professor Duncan McCargo from Leeds University hits the nail firmly on the head when he says: “What you see in the Deep South is just an extreme version of the national problem in Thailand, which is that power is overly concentrated in Bangkok, where “the military and monarchy sit.”

Michael Montesano, a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies responds that the solution is “[d]evolution of power … both in the Deep South and countrywide…”. Yet he knows this is deeply challenging for the elite who are “reluctant to cede real power, while Abhisit’s government is backed by Thailand’s most centralized powers—the military and the crown.”

PPT agrees when the article concludes: “Until the country’s leaders are willing to address the longstanding grievances held by Thais outside the traditional power structure, unrest, both in the South and in Bangkok, will likely continue to be the norm.”



One response

16 01 2011
What is the problem in Thailand’s Deep South? | Asian Correspondent

[…] btw, PPT has comments on the same article here. […]

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