“Thousands of people have died in the past seven years in a bloody insurgency in Thailand's southern border provinces. Successive governments have claimed that the situation is improving and returning to normal, but the evidence of the past month suggests otherwise. Since a bold militant attack on an army base on Jan. 19 that left four dead, the Malay-majority region has seen a wave of shootings and bombings. It is time the Abhisit government stopped trying to deny the two most central facts about the violence: that this is a political problem in urgent need of a political solution,” says Asia Society Associate Fellow Duncan McCargo.
“It's time for the security forces to stop repeating their tired mantras that much of the violence is just ordinary crime, and to abandon trying to placate locals with ill-conceived ‘development projects’ that do far more for state agencies and favored contractors than for local villagers. Thailand is an over-centralized state, and the Bangkok-knows-best attitudes of the ruling elite are at the core of this issue -- and indeed of the country's wider political conflicts. The sooner Bangkok begins a genuine dialogue with citizens in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat about how to accommodate their desire for a greater say in their own affairs, the sooner the violence will end. This conflict is beyond the capacity of the military to suppress. There is no easy solution or simple way forward, but the past seven years have been largely wasted, and Thailand's government now needs to come out of denial mode.”
Duncan, who is based in the U.K., is author of an award-winning book on the conflict, “Tearing Apart the Land.” To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.