In the aftermath of 16 insurgents being killed in a failed attack on a Thai marine base, the BBC’s Jonathan Head visited the Deep South. His article is entitled “Putting a face to the conflict in Thailand’s south”. Video is also included and is well worth watching. Excerpts from the article are below:

I met the father and widow of 25-year-old Sa-oudi Alee. Both said they were proud of the way he had died, fighting for his beliefs.

Marohso Jantarawadee, shown here with his wife, was the leader of the group

Darunee Alee has been left to bring up their 18-month-old son, but refused to be downcast.

Why did Sa-oudi feel he had to join the insurgents, I asked?

She said that like many of the other insurgents, he became involved after the Tak Bai incident in October 2004, when the Thai army detained dozens of Muslim men and piled them, tied up, on top of each other in trucks before driving them for three hours.

Seventy-eight of them died on the journey from being crushed or suffocated.

Sa-oudi had spent two years in jail and was released last year. His passport showed he had also travelled six times to Malaysia between 2007 and 2008, although his family were unclear what he was doing there.

Veera in an op-ed in the Bangkok Post:

A two-minute video clip of the funeral of some of the 16 dead Islamist insurgents from the failed attack on a marine outpost in Narathiwat’s Bacho district was posted on the YouTube social network last Friday _ just two days after the attack.

Titled “Untukmu 16 Syahid Pahlawan Patani” (Kingdom of Warriors for 16 Martyrs) the clip shows a large group of Thai Malay Muslims attending the funeral held at a cemetery with several of them chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is Great).

The clip in question has provoked an uproar among Thai Buddhists who feel the dead are murderers of innocent people and not heroes as perceived by their Muslim families and friends.

But the video clip itself has told one thing which is, indeed, a real cause of concern for the authorities responsible for restoring peace. That is, there are quite a few people in the restive region who believe the dead insurgents are “heroes” and that they and their comrades are fighting for a just cause.

BP: The video is here.

Don Pathan in The Nation:

To the authorities, Marohso was a fierce militant, a misguided young man they say was caught up in an armed movement that embraces distorted history and false teaching of Islam. He had more than 10 warrants out for his arrest and had been on the run for the past five years.

But to his family and neighbours, he was a responsible person who cared deeply for his wife and children. 

Marohso’s funeral drew a huge crowd and was somewhat emotional. Young and old men queued up in an orderly column to pass his body, wrapped in white sheet. In the background there was a constant chant of “Allah Akbar” (God is great).

In spite of the high number of troops in the region, Mahrosu and others on the wanted list move around somewhat freely, mainly because the local community will not turn them in. 

Authorities say the villagers are scared of the insurgents but residents say the militants are part of the community. Like the insurgents, they share some of the same sentiments and historical mistrust of the Thai state.

BP: After the failed attack, the authorities were putting out the story of locals being sick of attacks. CNN:

The government has since tried to reverse its heavy handed policy in the region, using instead a heart-and-minds campaign to pacify the provinces.

According to Lt. General Ditthaporn Sasasmit of the Internal Security Operations Command, the operation has been a success.

“If we compare it to nine years ago, the situation was very bad,” he told CNN. “Every time officers tried to round up or search suspect targets, we received strong resistance from locals.

“Now we have prevented many attacks thanks to information given out by local residents – a good example is the latest military base attack; insurgents lost a lot of lives.”

BP: No doubt some people are sick of insurgent attacks, but so few attacks are failed. The proof of more cooperation will be fewer attacks with fewer injuries and deaths.

This attempted attack was unique and BP doesn’t think you can interpret a lot because of the outcome as blogged last week:

Based on all news we know now, the current attack has been a complete failure and will provide the authorities and the government with a much needed boost in public perception on their capability on dealing with the insurgency and that the authorities do have intelligence sources who can provide information. It will also provide a morale boost for the army.

However, this attack on the marine base involved at least 50 insurgents so the possibility of a leak was much higher. This is in contrast with most of the daily attacks which are small-scale and involve only a few insurgents (understood to be within the same small cell at village level and with little central direction). This is not to diminish the success in repelling the current attack, but don’t expect it to mean a drop off in attacks and the number of dead and injured in the coming months.

BP: Only time will tell, but over the last week the attacks have continued. The current policy is not working. The government is trying to shift from the State of Emergency legislation to the Internal Security Act, but will this change things on the ground?

On Tak Bai, we have had a parliamentary ombudsman-led report into Tak Bai and an inquest which ruled that the authorities were carrying out their duties at the time. This decision was appealed and Amnesty International stated:

In June 2012, Thailand’s Court of Appeal denied families of Tak Bai victims another chance at justice, after it blocked an attempt to appeal findings of a 2009 inquest. The inquest had found security officials had just performed their duty in October 2004.

BP: The inquest result seems to have stopped prosecutions. It seems unlikely Yingluck dare to try to find a way to seek justice for Tak Bai victims given it would upset the military and bring back the spotlight over the deaths which occurred when her brother was PM, but this doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try.