Muslim leaders accuse Thai government of double standards

Muslim leaders accused the Thai government of focusing all of its resources on dealing with the political crisis in the Thai capital, while ignoring problems in the insurgency-plagued southernmost region.

Muslim leaders accuse Thai government of double standards
World Bulletin / News Desk
While Thai authorities seek to control political conflict in Bangkok ahead of February 2 legislative elections, Muslims suffering years of violence in the country's south have accused the government of double standards.

In interviews with Anadolu Agency, analysts and Muslim civil society leaders accused the Thai government of focusing all of its resources on dealing with the political crisis in the Thai capital, while ignoring problems in the insurgency-plagued southernmost region.

“There is really a double-standard attitude of the government. The emergency decree has been implemented in Bangkok for a few days, but we can still see plenty of demonstrators in the streets," said Ahmad Somboon Bualuang, director of the peace promotion curriculum, an NGO involved in education in the three southernmost provinces, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. 

"Here (in the south), as soon as the military have any suspicions, they would arrest people.”

When contacted, the Thai Embassy in Ankara said Friday that it did not have time to comment as it was too busy with the elections.

The southern part of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border and inhabited mostly by Muslims of Malay culture - Muslims represent roughly 5 percent of the Thai population, has been subject to violence since the emergence in the 1960s of several separatist movements. 

A new round of insurgency began in 2004, in which around 5,932 people have been killed and more than 10,000 wounded.

In Bangkok, large anti-government demonstrations began in November to denounce the domination of the country by the Shinawatra family, to which the current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra belongs. Yingluck's elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 until he was overthrown in a coup. 

Since December 9, six people have died in Bangkok election-related violence, with the government scrambling to control the political fallout amid intense international media coverage.

Thailand's Muslim south has suffered bomb attacks and shootings - 6 people killed in the last week alone - during this time, yet little has been reported.

“Violent acts and infringements on human rights happen all the time in the south, but all the news space is devoted to Bangkok politics,” stated Bualuang.

Emergency law was introduced in Bangkok for 60 days on January 21 to deal with demonstrations, while the three provinces down south have been placed under the same decree since 2005.

But whereas in Bangkok demonstrations and violence by marchers go relatively unchallenged, increased police and army powers in the south frequently lead to arbitrary detention.

“Down here, they don’t implement the emergency law the same way as in Bangkok,” said Mansour Saleh, the deputy-chairman of the south's Muslim civil society council. “They use it in a much more violent way. Implementation of the law is discriminatory." 

One of the direct affects of the Thai political conundrum was the suspension of formal talks between the government and the insurgents initiated last year. 

The discussions, which lasted eleven months before being suspended, were not without hiccup, but they raised hopes of a political settlement among the Muslim community. 

But after demonstrations in Bangkok intensified, the government withdrew to focus on the political crisis. 

“This affected us very much. The negotiation process had done good progress. Our Muslim society lost the chance to find peace”, said Worawit Baru, a Senator from southern Thailand. 

This view is commonly shared.

“Because of the suspension, the Thai authorities reverted to a purely ‘security approach’," said Ibrahim Narongraksaket, the Head of Islamic studies at the Prince of Songkla university, in Pattani. "And that is why unrest is still happening."

Last Mod: 31 Ocak 2014, 15:34
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