The United States and European nations tend to focus on terrorism as it pertains to the Middle East or to regions on the border of Pakistan, but few are concerned with the long term Muslim insurgency in Thailand. The people of Thailand are overwhelming Buddhist, but southern provinces have always been populated by people with Muslim backgrounds. For years there has been continual guerrilla warfare conducted by these Islamic insurgent groups. Thailand’s Army chief, General Anupong Paojinda has refused to negotiate with insurgents and disregarded the latest offer of a cease fire. He does not believe those claiming to speak for Muslim insurgents really have the power to enter into negotiations.
In a pre-recorded video broadcast by the army run Channel 5 television station, three unnamed Muslim men claimed to represent 11 insurgent groups and announced their intention of halting all attacks in the three southern provinces. They indicated a desire to proceed with a peace process. General Anupong admitted he was taken by surprise by men who boasted they represented the Thailand United Southern Underground(TSSU).
The Muslim rebels initially made their offer of a cease fire to General Chettha who leads a coalition party rather than directly dealing with Thai leaders. General Chettha said the insurgents do represent a sizable portion of those fighting the government. The video was made in Germany.
A solution to the Muslim insurgency most probably requires political concessions such as increased local autonomy and economic incentives for southern provinces.
Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sunaravej is arriving in Myanmar today where he will personally hand over an appeal to the military junta to allow more aid from the United Nations and other countries. He carries a personal plea from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging the junta to allow in critically needed specialists whose expertise are invaiuable in dealing with the cyclone crisis. This is not the first time Samak has used his connection with the murderous thugs who run Burma in order to find a way to aid the people of that nation. Mr. Samak has cultivated good relations with the Burma generals and even called them “good Buddhists” after they cracked down on monks demonstrating for democracy.
The Thai government has even offered to use its own planes in order to fly in supplies from the United States but the gesture was declined by the xenophobic generals. They insist only Burmese will handle relief supplies and have even placed stickers on aid from other nations which claim the goods are donations from the benevolent rulers of their country. As of this date, only one US plane has been allowed to land with supplies.
Nations of the world are increasingly facing the reality their stocks of rice may not be sufficient to handle normal demands from the population. In East Malyasia’s Sabah region, the supply of rice is enough to last for 1.6 months. This is about one third the amount normally in the reserves held by the nation. Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin admitted the “rice supply is presently a complicated problem not only in Sabah but across the globe.” He said his nation is expecting shipment of additional rice within the coming weeks from Vietnam and Thailand. “Our country is still getting supplies from these countries although they are now reducing their exports of rice.”
It is becoming increasingly necessary for governments to assume some control not merely of supplies but of price in order to protect consumers against price gouging. The assumption is traders will cooperate with government in maintaining supplies and prices. That, of course, is an assumption and the situation might become worse in terms of being able to obtain sufficient amounts of rice for the population.
There is need for international action to halt the use of food to deal with fuel needs and get nations focused on the importance of using food to feed people. What happens in East Malaysia if either Thailand or Vietnam is forced to curtail rice exports?
The nation of Thailand has witnessed several efforts by its military over the years to exert its authority by overthrowing civiian governments. Army Chief Anupong Paochinda, assured the public on Saturday the army is not planning to tke over the government in the forseeable future. His comments came in response to those of Prime Minister Samak Sunaravej who warned there were conspirators planning to trigger unrest in the nation and use it as a pretext to take over the government. “Today some people hve not stopped. They are lobbying and meeting… They still believe that another coup is possible.”
There are several problems confronting Thailand, among them is the unrest in southern regions where a Muslim led insurgency has resulted in the deaths of at least 3,000. Hopefully, the army will focus on ways to handle the situation politically and economically rather than only relying on military force.