South Continues to Struggle for Peace

March 15, 2006

Source: Asia Times Online

On March 15, 2006 the Asia Times Online reported, "Add Thailand's Muslim minority to the growing list of Thais who believe a change in government would likely be in their best interest. That's what many Thai Muslims in the country's conflict-ravaged southernmost provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala are hoping for - though few say so openly for fear of landing on a government enemies list... Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose controversial leadership style has recently ignited massive anti-government rallies in Bangkok, last year handed himself sweeping emergency powers to deal with the growing unrest in the south. Eight months later, hardly a day goes by without another bomb attack or assassination, and the troubled region has become one of Southeast Asia's hottest security flashpoints. Heavily armed police search cars at checkpoints along all major highways and cruise the streets of the provincial capitals in a show of force that has not been seen in Thailand since the height of the communist insurgency in the 1970s. Allegations of human-rights abuses tar both sides of the conflict.

Thaksin's hardline military approach to the problem contrasts sharply with attempts at finding a political solution by the royally appointed National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), led by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, a well-respected senior statesman. While Thaksin still dictates security policy, if a new government were somehow to emerge in Bangkok, it is widely expected that a new administration, particularly if it were royally appointed, would be more sympathetic to Muslim grievances."