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.
4 thoughts on “Terrorism in Thailand – the usual excuse”
Go to Yala and Pattani and check for yourself. See who owns all the businesses and who is running the show. After a while of broken promises (like Kashmir/Nagaland, Xinjiang etc.)the gun seems like the best option. While there is no doubt that there is some support from Malaysia or outside, the root cause of the problem is discrimination and inequality.
If you argue that terrorism is a legitimate response for the discriminated to seek redressal, then military force is an equally legitimate response by the state.
And as that wise old man said, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.
The question is why dont the discriminated minorities seek non-violent solutions through the democratic process?
Because, the democratic means that you suggest are often not available to minorities. Trace the history of trouble in India, China, and Myanmar or anywhere in the world – The trouble started after the elected representatives of the people were done away with or their peaceful organizations “outlawed” after they dared speak too much.
The notable cases in which a non-violent struggle worked were the “Indian Independence” and the “End of Apartheid”. In both these cases there was big media coverage. The issues were in the front page limiting the excesses of the rulers.
How many times have our so called “free press” reported on the consistent bad treatment of North Eastern States. Forget about the press in China. While Thailand has one of the freest presses in the world, they are very commercial, until recently the south did not even warranty an editorial. In this environment of apathy, where does a frustrated individual go?
Unfortunately, states take the organization that can cause damage seriously; they may even negotiate with them. IRA and PLO were both courted by their opponents only because they had the ability of violence. Look at the followers of peaceful resistance – Who speaks for Tibet?
Gandhi, Mandela and you forget Martin Luther King, received favourable media attention due to the justness of their cause, while their means gave them moral high ground. I’m sure they did’nt start non-violent struggles in the full glare of the media. On the contrary, the media just could not ignore their compelling struggle.
Also media attention does not automatically imply public sympathy.
You are right about Tibet though – non-violent struggle works best in democracies so the likes of Gandhi used the right formula. But taking up arms against an unrepresentative government is counter-productive – it will invite further repression.
Kashmir and Nagaland are part of democratic India; with its free press and elections. Elections in Kashmir were cynically manipulated in 1989, but so are they in Bihar, in UP and in so many other places. But you dont see them taking up terrorism to attract attention.
There is no justification for terrorism. Where terrorism raises its ugly head, it deserves to be put down with overwhelming force.
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