The budget of 3 billion baht for the next five years is just strategic support

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Note: On January 18, 2009, at the Novotel Century Hotel in Hat Yai, Songkhla province, the Deep South Watch and the Southern Journalist Southern Association of Thailand held a seminar on resolving the conflict in southern Thailand entitled Five years of fire in the south: war, knowledge, confusion…and what’s next?

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The Deep South Watch’s findings over the past 5 years

"If the Thai state continues to use the same policy that relies primarily on its security forces to bring peace to the region, the cost of the state’s investment will require approximately an additional 235,984 million baht, bringing the total sum of the state’s security expenditures since 2004 to approximately 345,280 million baht.  This security-focused strategy will also require another five to ten years to resolve the problems.”

- Dr. Srisompob Jitpiromsri
      Prince of Songkla University, Pattani campus, Faculty of Political
      Science

The southern border provinces: a half decade of violence
and the attempts to find a reasonable way out

From January 2004 through December 2008, there were more than 8,600 violent incidents in the deep south.  If we look back over the past ten years, we can see a dramatic escalation of violent incidents beginning in 2004, when approximately five incidents occurred per day.  The number of violent incidents peaked in 2005, when 2,297 incidents took place, or an average of six incidents per day.  By 2008, however, violence had significantly decreased to approximately two incidents per day. 

During this five-year period, the state allocated 109 billion baht to mitigate the violence.  This essentially means that the state had to spend to approximately 88 million baht to decrease violent incidents by one incident per day. 

If the Thai state continues to use the same policy that relies primarily on its security forces to bring peace to the region, the cost of the state’s investment will require approximately an additional 235,984 million baht, bringing the total sum of the state’s security expenditures since 2004 to approximately 345,280 million baht.  This security-focused strategy would also require another five to ten years to resolve the problem.

Moreover, if this kind of approach continues in the future it could result in more human rights abuses for the people in the area, which could possibly transcend into more support for the militant movement.

During this five-year period, police and other state security forces made more than 10,000 arrests. Although more than 6,000 cases were registered, only 2.5 percent of these cases even reached a court room.

In 2008 there were 1,200 fewer incidents than in 2007. However, monthly incidents remained high, as did injuries and fatalities. Most victims were local civilians and soldiers. Interestingly, during the period of 2007-2008 more village heads were victims of attacks than soldiers and police, perhaps indicating insurgents’ attempt to seek revenge on the Thai government.

Regarding police conduct, if compared with the first few years of the insurgency, officers seemed to be more cautious when making arrests and conducting searches and seizures.  This likely stems from their growing recognition that international human rights groups are monitoring their actions.

In conclusion, the most important structural reforms necessary to reduce the incidence of violence and, by extension, resolve the long-standing conflict, are political.  By focusing on promulgating political reforms instead of relying largely on Thailand’s security apparatus, the state may be able to significantly decrease its expenditures on the region while simultaneously reducing violence.

 

"The trends in 2008 is the ideological campaign strategies"

 

 
- Mr. Prasit Meksuwan
Consultant for the Federation of Teachers in the Southern Border Provinces

The war in the south: the situation in 2008

 

 

"If the Thai state continues to use the same policy that relies primarily on its security forces to bring peace to the region, the cost of the state’s investment will require approximately an additional 235,984 million baht, bringing the total sum of the state’s security expenditures since 2004 to approximately 345,280 million baht.  This security-focused strategy will also require another five to ten years to resolve the problems.”

The state’s strategies in 2008 and 2009 have increasingly focused on establishing stability and creating development in the region. Another important element concerns improving news intelligence, which has been generally unclear.

The reduction of violence suggests that the state’s security strategies have improved. Also, news intelligence has become more accurate. However, communication between the government and locals remains inadequate and inefficient, and the insurgents have been able to take advantage of this.

Also, education is very poor.  If it continues to exacerbate, in five years the quality of education in the region could become equal to education in Cambodia.

In terms of locals’ opinions on violent events, most people do not believe that government officials have created violence to receive promotions. Also, by 2008, unlike the initial years of this current wave of unrest, a wide range of locals had come to believe that there was an actual separatist movement behind the violence. Additionally, if one looks at international strategies, while the government has been successful in terms of reducing external involvement, the separatist movement has been unable to acquire external assistance to help in their efforts to gain control of the region.

The separatist movement has had three strategies. First, it has aimed to increase its network of support through insurgent operations.  Second, it has sought to cause more violence in the three southern border provinces.  This has proved successful as there has been a dramatic decline in the number of Buddhists living in the region.  Specifically, in 2004 there were 300,000 Thai Buddhists in the area but that number has decreased to approximately 70,000 now.  Third, the movement has aimed to establish more international allies.  To date, however, it appears to have been unsuccessful in this regard.

In 2009, the government should increasingly rely on a strategy centered on clear policies, but so far recent governments have been unable to develop cogent, systematic strategies.

Importantly, the government must work more toward reducing the number of troops in the region.  Instead of sending more troops, it should concentrate on improving the overall quality of troops. 

Meanwhile, the insurgent movement seems to have been able to replace its human losses with new recruits. 

It is interesting to note that there were people from Pattani seen in the war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas. Some analysts believe this effort to support Hamas could in effect garner more international support for the insurgent movement.  On the other hand, others believe that even though the insurgency may have international allies, this does not immediately translate into strong international support.

 

 

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The Deep South Watch’s findings on the perspectives
of government officials over the past five years

“The budget was not used for combat alone”

- Colonel Lerchai Maleelert


 The chief of staff the joint civilian-police-army forces

Concerning the information in Professor Srisompob Jitpiromsri’s research, it should be noted that the budget used to resolve the situation in the southern border provinces was not used for combat alone.  It was also used to support local communities.  For instance, money was allocated for community development and restoration; many people received financial compensation for their hardships, including soldiers; and importantly, people were provided with security.


The aim of policy has remained the same for the region, however, and that is that the three border provinces can not be separated from Thailand.

In terms of human rights violations, we admit that they have occurred.  But it is important to keep in mind that soldiers are in fact just ordinary people.  When they see their fellow soldiers killed, they experience strong feelings and do not always act according to their expected code of conduct.  That said, the government and the military have made it a clear point that soldiers in the region must follow rules and regulations and look after the some 1.9 million people that live in the southern border provinces in a responsible manner.

In spite of the negative publicity of soldiers’ actions, people must not forget that soldiers also routinely encourage insurgents to refrain from conducting violent acts and dissuade the youth from joining the insurgency.  Perhaps most importantly, soldiers are very aware of their duties and, by and large, refrain from violating human rights.

Furthermore, based on public inquiries, the majority of the people in the three provinces support the government’s emergency decree.

  
“How can we resolve the current conflict? Although there has been no effective policy, we must work toward resolving the conflict in a fair manner.”

- Police Lieutenant Colonel Somkuan Kampeera


  (representing Police Lieutenant General Adul  
  Sangsingkaew)

Despite the criticism leveled at the police for human rights abuses, the police in fact have received some positive feedback from one human rights organization.  It stated that the emergency decree (initially implemented in 2005) was important and appropriate given the current state of unrest. 

Finally, how can we resolve the current conflict?  Although there has been no effective policy, we must work toward resolving the conflict in a fair manner.  The government should try and devise a fair and reasonable solution that leads toward a resolution of the conflict in 2009 and beyond.

 
"It may be too quick to say that the situation has improved."

 
- General Wipot Srinuan

Deputy Defence Permanent-Secretary

In determining its next step toward working to resolve the situation, it would be very useful for the government to could acquire better intelligence
 
Also, to date, it seems like lower-ranking officials have not been able to carry out policies outlined by the government.  It is important that all official work on the same page.  
 
Meanwhile, insurgents groups have not been able to acquire more support from international allies.  They also have not been able to expand violent activities to outside the region. 
 
However, it may be too quick to say that this shows that the the situation has improved.  We n$eed to keep monitoring and investigating the situation in the region before we feel more confident to make such a claim. 
 
Government agencies and people must work closely together. Every part of society must play a role in resolving the situation. 
 
In sum, if the government can not control the security situation, and if it continues to rely primarily on combat to defuse the conflict, the situation will remain the same.  
 
The people can not continue and wait for the government to take another five to ten years to resolve the situation, however.  They need the government to take a strong initiative to improve the situation.

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