Thailand: The terrorists that outsmarted the Government

Thailand has been plagued by terrorists for decades, almost a century even.

The people of especially the three most southern provinces – Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat – lives like this: Almost all news from their part of the world involves bombs and someone dying. They attend funerals frequently. There are bullet holes in their kids’ classrooms. And no one goes about anywhere after dark. These people live in fear.

 Despite the high number of casualties – 4000 in the last five years – shifting Thai governments have been unable to stop the terror. Rather, it has managed to get the terrorism aimed at itself, leaving the people of the area largely without authorities, because talking to a police officer can literally get you killed. And people tend to try and avoid that.

The terrorists are an undefined group under two loosely structured movements: Barisan Revolusi National Patani (BRN) and Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), two groups of insurgents, who fight for an independent Muslim state in the area. Their weapons are bone chilling and range from setting booby traps with human heads as bait over roadside bombs to torture.

But however grisly the stories from the three provinces may be, the terrorists today are having no trouble gathering support for their cause.  

Because they are smart about their terrorism.  

Firstly – they contain the fighting within the border, thus making it a purely national problem. Secondly, they keep it out of the tourist areas and major cities, thus making it very easy to avoid international attention. And third – they are fighting for a cause, not fighting against an enemy, which makes it easy to sympathize.

It is the Thai government who has made itself the enemy to be fought; From official side, virtually all attempts to quash the insurgency, has been to install lots and lots of military and refuse to negotiate with anyone. It has been a maneuver in saving face by not giving into the insurgents and putting in more and more military. Today, there are 30,000 national troops posted in Patani and more to come, according to the country’s Foreign Minister.  

The massive military response have shaped the conflict into one with two clear sides and lots of weapon. Negotiation would probably be the most productive way to move forward, but having already put in so much military, a non-military approach at this point would cause the government to lose face.

So what to do? At this point it really does seem like the terrorists have the Thai Government backed into a corner and made the world as black and white as only the act of violence can make it. And national pride or not – for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, it comes down to this:

Do you want to save face or do you want to save lives?

 


Sri Lanka Classic by Karin Munkholm

Presidential elections, parliamentary Elections, opposition presidentialcandidate arrested, president extends his presidential periode, takes overministry of information and communication. Some how all seen before includingthe reaction of the Western powers.

President Rajapakse did deliever onhis promise of ending the conflict with the Tamils. So far he has not delieveredon a sustainable, longlasting solution that will make future uprisings hard toimagine. The LTTE may be eradicated for the time being, but LTTE´s financialbase is still  expected to be intact. It can be activated at a later stage. Thatis why it is crusial for Rajapakse to deliever en solution that will make ithard for any future insurgents to gain a following

It seems as if theplan calling an early, but not that early, parliamentary election, theparliament was to be dissolved not later than the 26th of April this year, is twofold:to gain a twothirds majority and turn the newly elected parliament int aconstitutional assembly and implement the 17th ammendment with ammendments. Andto consolidate Rajakas

So far nobody except for the defeated candidatehas questioned the outcome of the presidential election. It is aggreed that therun up to the election was not flawless, no major problems concerning countingballots etc.

Rajapakse can be critizised for consolidating his and hisfamily`s power by extending his presidential periode, but he did follow theprocedures relation to applications for extension. CBK was not allowed to extendher presidential periode.

Time will show if it is correct that  thedefeated presidential candidate in fact had plans, credible to an extend to havehim arrested. Coup attempts are rare in Sri Lanka, but the military was themajor agent in the 1962 attempt. Given Sri Lankas human rights record and thepolitical use/abuse of the legal system worries  about the fairness of the trialare justified.

The president taking over the Ministry of Information andCommunication is another classic: CBK did it in November 2003

The Westernreaction and lack of action is to be expected: SriLanka is in the interst spehre of India,and is not of major importance for western interests in the region. Which giveswho ever is in power in SriLanka a certain freedom to do as it pleaseshim/her. Known by all playes in the political game.”


The Maguindanao Massacre: impunity rears its ugly head by Lennart Niemela, M.A., Asian studies, Lund University

The Maguindanao province, located on Mindanao island in Southern Philippines, made headlines in international media on November 23, 2009, when a convoy on the way to an election office was held en route by armed men and 57 people were brutally killed. The governor of the province, Andal Ampatuan, is pointed out as the prime suspect for the killings.

If not the brutality of the act caught the eye of the public, then certainly the sheer number of journalists and media workers killed did. According to the report on journalists and media staff killed in 2009 by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ 2010), the 32 media workers killed in the massacre constituted the single worst act of political violence directed at media since IFJ started publishing reports on media killings 20 years ago, which makes the Philippines the most dangerous country for journalists outside Iraq.

The massacre calls for a further contextualizing of the political economy of violence in the Philippines than have been made in news media in general. What conditions made the massacre possible?

According to a speech by Philippine Chairman on the Human Rights Commission Leila M. De Lima (2010), the corruption underlying the massacre is merely the tip of an iceberg where the local situation is rooted in corruption on a national level.

De Lima calls for “[a] change in operational hierarchy […], particularly where the local chief executive retains operational control over law enforcers.” What De Lima addresses is a structure that has enabled ruling clans to build private armies.

Considering the high instance of extrajudicial killings, which have increased during Arroyo’s administration (HRW 2009) and have implicated both the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP), very few are convicted. According to De Lima (2010), human rights violations are most often related to anti-insurgency campaigns. The threat of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) insurgencies have been exploited for patron-client relationships between the government and provincial ruling clans. In 2006 President Arroyo declared an “all-out war” against the NPA and to extend the forces against insurgents, Executive Order 546 was passed which enabled local officials and the PNP to deputize and arm local militias as Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) (Lingao 2009). Local police chiefs, in turn, can be chosen by local officials, creating a direct chain of command between clan and CVOs. In practice, local warlords thus maintain power by offering the central government counter-insurgency in trade for votes and their private armies are built using the coffers of the state.

Key indicators for education have fallen since the beginning of the Arroyo administration in 2001, but the situation in Maguindanao is further worsened by armed conflicts (Jimeno 2008a). Poverty in the province is the third worst in the country and has increased dramatically during Ampatuan’s rule. The conditions are such that CVOs in Maguindanao have also recruited amongst minors (Jimeno 2008b).

The Maguindanao Massacre is a frightening indicator of just how far impunity has developed in the Philippines and has already called out many organizations and people into the streets in demonstrations. The reality of provincial lawlessness will reverberate until the upcoming May 10 elections and have opened up an opportunity for actors of change to take front stage, but it also stresses the need for free and fair elections to develop properly for change to be possible.

 

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De Lima, L.M., 2010. An overview of the Philippine human rights situation – what should be a meaningful human rights agenda for the next administration? In Commission on Human Rights, On the occasion of the KAPIHAN on human rights: towards a meaningful human rights agenda. Makati City, Philippines 12 January 2010. Commission on Human Rights: Manila.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), 2009. Philippines: massacre shows Arroyo’s failure to address impunity. [Online] http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/11/24/philippines-massacre-shows-arroyo-s-failure-address-impunity [Accessed 8 February 2010]

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), 2010. End of a deadly decade: journalists and media staff killed in 2009. [Online] Belgium: International Federation of Journalists. Available at: http://www.ifj.org/assets/docs/153/075/f4f9999-c4ab84b.pdf [Accessed 8 February 2010]

Jimeno, J.F., 2008a. Maguindanao, RP fall behind key indicators for education. [Online] Available at: http://pcij.org/stories/maguindanao-rp-fall-behind-key-indicators-for-education [Accessed 8 February 2010]

Jimeno, J.F., 2008b. Young guns, young terror. [Online] Available at: http://pcij.org/stories/young-guns-young-terror [Accessed 8 February 2010]

Lingao, E., 2009. Putting Maguindanao in context. [Online] http://pcij.org/stories/putting-maguindanao-in-context [Accessed 8 February 2010]