Caution needed in far South

There is good cause for many of us to feel proud of, and to commend, the marines at a make-shift base in a rubber plantaion in Narathiwat’s Bacho district who fought off the major onslaught by well-armed Islamist insurgents early Wednesday morning.

The marines, under the command of Cdr Thammanoon Wanna, foiled a daring attempt by a force variously estimated at 50 militants to seize the base. They killed 16 of them, their bodies found scattered outside the base perimeter.

But there is also a good cause to be worried about the incident. The insurgents have become so emboldened by recent successes that they felt they could challenge the security forces head on, rather than relying on their normal hit-and-run tactics, such as roadside ambushes, drive-by shootings and remotely detonated car bombs.

That the insurgents were capable of massing such a large force for a major mission like the failed attack on the marine base in Bacho district is of grave concern.

In hindsight, I wish to point to two issues that I believe need to be discussed and debated.

The first issue is the remarks made public by security officers, including the base commander, attributing the defenders’ success to information from local informants about the planned attack.

The second is the ambiguous statement by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung instructing the secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, and the Narathiwat provincial governor to consider compensating families of the dead insurgents.

I could not agree more with the concern expressed by Democrat MP for Pattani Anwar Saleh over the security officers’ disclosure that they had advance warning of the attack. Mr Anwar said that disclosure might unnecessarily have placed their informants, their families or other local people at risk of reprisals by the insurgents.

The insurgents are notorious for their brutality, and vengeful attacks are well attested to with suspected informants or informers being cold-bloodedly murdered.

The second issue, compensation for families of the dead insurgents, was aired publicly Thursday morning during a talk show on 90.5 MKh FM radio, with the two programme anchors expressing their outrage over the suggestion.

I am not sure whether Mr Chalerm actually meant what he suggested, that compensation should be considered for families of the dead insurgents as part of the healing process. But his remark, which is ambiguous, has already caused a misunderstanding that needs to be clarified immediately.

Personally, any idea or suggestion of compensating the families of the dead insurgents is outrageous and insane. Why should we compensate them, even though they might claim that they were completely unaware of the illegal activities of their sons or that their sons were misguided?

The attacking insurgents, including those who were killed, were well armed and were determined to kill the marines at the base. Some might have been misguided in believing they were fighting a jihad, but that should not justify entitling their families to compensation.

That would set a very bad precedent that would encourage the insurgents to fight on, or even encourage more jobless young men to join the insurgency in the knowledge their families would be taken care of anyway should they be killed by the security forces.

I only hope that Mr Chalerm did not mean what he said, or that his statement was misinterpreted.

Related search: Opinion, Veera Prateepchaikul, southern violence, compensation

About the author

Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Position: Former Editor