Narathiwat attacks come as no surprise
The two bomb blasts that wounded one soldier and four civilians on Friday in Narathiwat might have been intended by the perpetrators to send a message that they are against or are not interested in the olive branch extended by the government.
- Published: 2/03/2013 at 02:37 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
A bomb disposal squad inspect the wreckage of a car bomb that exploded outside a row of retail shops in Narathiwat on Friday. (Photo by Waedao Harai)
The bombings, which came just one day after the signing of a historic peace deal framework in Kuala Lumpur by the Thai government and the BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional) rebel group, were not totally unexpected.
It must be understood that the signing of the peace deal does not mean an end to violence in the deep South. National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabut, who signed the deal on behalf of the government, made it clear that it represents just the beginning of a process that still has a long way to go.
It came as little surprise that the peace deal was viewed with deep scepticism. The harshest critics called the historic event, which was witnessed by Malaysia's military chief, a "stage-managed" exercise to demonstrate that the government has made progress in resolving the southern conflict.
Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also cast doubt on the credentials of Hasan Talib, the BRN liaison official who signed the deal on behalf of the BRN. Mr Abhisit and others have questioned whether Hasan has any influence over the new-generation insurgents who have been terrorising both civilians and authorities in the restive region.
The scepticism is valid because the peace deal appeared to have come out of the blue. Even the media had been kept in the dark about what had been going on behind closed doors in Malaysia until only a day or two before the signing on Friday. Also, little was known about the BRN's front man, Hasan Talib, and his background.
That the government has decided to sue for peace with all the rebel groups, including the "old guard" groups such as the BRN and Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) which are dysfunctional, is a sensible step in the right direction. However, the signing of the agreement with the BRN was seen as hasty and meant for publicity for both the Thai and Malaysian governments.
Peace talks with the rebel groups have to start in earnest anyway – whether it was last Friday or any day in the future – as military means alone have proven to be a failure in bringing an end to the conflict and restoring peace.
What the media and the public in general seem to have misunderstood about the peace process is that it cannot be expected to yield immediate results. Hence, everyone is asking the standard questions about whether the signing of the peace deal will bring an end to the violence or whether the violence will de-escalate.
The southern conflict dates back several decades, although a new round of insurgency started in January 2004. It is wishful thinking that violence will end or decrease merely because of the existence of a peace deal.
Any peace process is time-consuming and requires patience from all stakeholders. Peace talks in Northern Ireland began in the 1980s leading up to a ceasefire in 1994. In the Philippines, peace talks between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front rebels dated back to the 1970s with the intervention of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, with a mixture of failures and successes and later on with the help of Malaysia. But the real breakthrough came last year with a framework deal, brokered by Malaysia, formally signed in Manila last October.
Nobody can tell for sure whether or when the rebel group representing the juwae fighters responsible for most of the violence in the far South will join the peace process, or when a real peace deal will be signed that will bring an end to the bloody conflict.
Although lasting peace is the ultimate aim of the initiative by the government, it will be an achievement of sorts if the government manages to win more support from the public in the deep South and the international community because of its peace initiative.
The early hope, at least, is that pressure will be brought upon the hardcore rebel groups to come to the negotiating table.
About the author
- Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
- Position: Former Editor