Did Thaksin met with the Deep South insurgents in Malaysia?By Bangkok Pundit Apr 12, 2012 10:00AM UTC
In the first post, BP looked at the statistics of the violence from January 2004 until March 2012. In this post, which is really part 2 (although have gone for a different title), BP will look for where we go next and the idea of talks – the word ‘negotiations’ is still a ‘no-no’ for now – in the context of the allegation that Thaksin met with the insurgents.
Things though took an unusual turn last Thursday in parliament. The Bangkok Post on April 5:
The deputy premier in charge of security affairs was replying to a question in the House from Prasert Pongsuwansiri, a Democrat MP from Yala.
Mr Prasert said some websites reported that the March 31 car bombings in Yala and Songkhla followed unsuccessful talks between Thaksin and leaders of a separatist movement.
“What matters did Thaksin discuss with the movement,” Mr Prasert asked.
Mr Chalerm categorically denied the report.
Mr Prasert said the website of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo), a separatist group known to have been long inactive, showed a picture of Thaksin and a Pulo leader with their arms around each other. The MP said Mr Chalerm should check the website himself.
The opposition MP also asked if it was true that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra learned of Thaksin’s talks with Pulo at a cabinet meeting after the car bombings.
Mr Chalerm said the report and picture posted on the Pulo website were unreliable and he paid no attention to it.
BP: At that time, BP immediately checked the PULO Web site to see the photo and there was nothing. There had been no updates for weeks – since then there has been an update with a copy-and-paste of Thaksin’s denial of talks. BP asked around and a reliable, non-political source who advised that they heard that Thaksin had been talking with the Malaysians to get the insurgent leaders based in Malaysia to talk with Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, director of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, but had not heard about Thaksin meeting directly.
Nevertheless, the story refused to die.
Tony Davis of Janes in Asia Times on April 6:
An essentially different interpretation of events ties the attacks directly to recent political initiatives by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center, Thawee Sodsong. Thawee, a former policeman recently appointed to the position by the Puea Thai administration headed by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, had recently revived the idea of a “Mahanakhorn Pattani” structure that would devolve a measure of self-rule to the insurgency-hit border provinces.
Thaksin has reportedly visited Malaysia several times this year to hold meetings with both Prime Minister Najib Razak and former premier Mahathir Muhammad. According to several well-placed sources, these meetings have resulted in older-generation separatists from various factions resident in Malaysia being strong-armed by Malaysian Special Branch police into attending meetings both with representatives of SBPAC chief Thawee and finally with Thaksin himself to discuss ways of addressing the grievances of Thailand’s Malay Muslim community.
Some of these separatist elements reportedly included figures from the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – the party generally understood to be the organizational driving force behind the insurgency. Other BRN elements boycotted the meetings, according to one source in contact with them.
Then you have Thaksin’s carefully worded denial per The Nation:
“I am not in the position to conduct such negotiations since I am just an unemployed man,” he said in an interview in Hong Kong.
Thaksin said remarks by the two Democrats were groundless, insisting he had never met with any insurgent leaders, including those from the PULO movement.
He said talks, if ever they take place, should be with a neighbouring country like Malaysia in order to deny the insurgents a safe haven.
When Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra paid a visit to Kuala Lumpur in February, she sought Malaysian cooperation in tracking down the insurgents, he said.
Although in his opinion, every war should end at the negotiating table and not the battlefield, the Thai government should not be a direct party engaged in talks with insurgents, Thaksin said.
BP: The actual quote from Thaksin is a non-denial denial. Saying he is not in a position to negotiate as he is unemployed is not actually denying negotiating. The first paraphrased line BP will come back to soon, but the last three paraphrased lines is an explanation of of why someone like Thaksin would meet insurgent leaders (in Malaysia? check; should not be a member of Thai government? if Thaksin, then check too). So BP went looking for Thai language quotes to see if Thaksin himself was being Clintonian in his denial. Krungthep Turakit:
กระทั่ง “ทักษิณ” ได้ให้สัมภาษณ์กับสื่อระหว่างพักอยู่ที่ประเทศฮ่องกง (8 เม.ย.) ว่า “ผมมีสิทธิ์เกี่ยวข้องอะไรที่จะไปพูดคุย ผมมันก็แค่คนตกงาน สิ่งที่ผมทำได้ คือ การขอความช่วยเหลือจากประเทศเพื่อนบ้าน เพื่อป้องกันการก่อการร้าย” (“What rights do I have to talk, I am only an unemployed person. What I can do is to ask for assistance from neighbouring countries in order for protection from terrorism”) and ”ถ้าถามว่าควรมีการเจรจาไหม ผมเห็นว่าสมควรอย่างยิ่ง สงครามต้องสิ้นสุดกันที่โต๊ะเจรจา ไม่ใช่อยู่ในสมรภูมิ” (“If you ask me whether we should negotiate or not, I think that is very appropriate. War must end at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield”).
BP: That is not an actual denial. Later Chalerm and Noppadol gave actual denials, but well they would.
Don Pathan in The Nation on April 9:
The Nation has learned some details of the “meeting”, in which Thaksin supposedly stopped short of apologising but expressed regret for some of the violent incidents carried out by authorities during his administration.
The sources said he told the group of 15 exiled leaders from long-standing Malay Muslim separatist groups that his harsh tactics in the deep South were partly the result of his being “misinformed” by authorities.
Thaksin urged all sides to let bygones be bygones and work together to bring peace back to the restless region.
He gave each exiled leader a hug before leaving, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Thaksin was not accompanied by any Thai government official to the meeting in the middle of last month, about two weeks before the bomb attacks in Yala and Hat Yai, that was facilitated by a Malaysian government agency.
“I thought he [Thaksin] was sincere with his gesture,” said one exiled separatist who was at the meeting. “But this conflict is beyond the control of one man.”
Refusing to take part in the secret meeting were the elders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinate (BRN-C), whose cadre told The Nation that they “could never forgive Thaksin for what he has done to the Malays of Patani” when he was premier.
BP: It doesn’t seem that the Democrats have a photo with Thai Rath stating that Prasert now says it is was within someone from the Deep South who has now gone back to Malaysia and cannot be contacted so unless there is a photo. Nevertheless, there was a Bangkok Post article:
A member of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre’s advisory council insists that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra did negotiate with a separatist leader in Malaysia.
Thaksin contacted the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) to have a talk with its leader in Malaysia on March 18, Chaiyong Maneerungsakul, a member of the Advisory Council for the SBPAC, said.
The information was based on intelligence reports he gathered, he said.
Mr Chaiyong accepted he had earlier given this information to a Chinese language newspaper in Malaysia _ Kwong Wah _ which recently published the news.
BP: Intelligence reports? The Chinese language paper article is here and a google translate into English is here. Google translate never does a good job, but from multiple sentences you can see references to Thaksin meeting insurgents on March 18. It doesn’t appear then he was citing intelligence sources, but now his story he was. It is possible he exaggerated his knowledge, but there is also the possibility he said something on-the-record he shouldn’t and now is trying to backtrack (usually the Thai government is coy in on-the-record statements about specifics of talks).
There is no on-the-record source or a photo that has been made available, but well from Thaksin’s weak denial, his own statements regarding the need for negotiations, his visits to Malaysia, the multiple sources above, there seems a good chance that Thaksin meet with insurgent leaders, or if not, he met within people close to insurgent leaders and is pushing for talks. Regardless, the intention of Thakin’s statement and recent actions of the government is clear, they are interested in pursuing talks.
In another post from last week, BP also looked at a political solution, principally same form of self-autonomy after the statement by the government that it was studying a special administrative zone
h/t Teakdoor for the Khong Wah newspaper link