Whenever fundamentalist Islamic groups start campaigns of secession-driven terrorism, their apologists rally under the banner of a familiar excuse: discriminatory development policies that enrich the majority at the cost of the minority. The latest in the list is Thailand – where Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has resolved to defeat Islamic fundamentalist terror using the might of the Thai army. In spite of what Shinawatra says, there is some evidence that the Patani terrorists have al Qaeda connections. Malaysia’s Islamic fundamentalist opposition party has characterised the Thai military campaign as “brutal state-sanctioned terrorism” against Muslims. The phraseology is so very familiar.
The apologists said the same a decade ago, when the Moros in southern Philippines launched a violent campaign for independence. President Fidel Ramos sorted things out by co-opting Nur Misuari, the leader of the largest Moro separatist group, appointing him the governor of the southern Muslim-majority province. But Misuari was not able to control his own radicals and Al Qaeda affiliates like the Abu Sayyaf. The discrimination argument was proven to be bunk.