Police chief owes us an explanation

Police chief owes us an explanation

While anyone who launched the bomb blasts targeting civilians at a Big C Supercenter in Pattani province that resulted in at least 61 injuries last Tuesday must be condemned, security officers have to be held responsible over what seemed to be their lax operations.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda on Thursday said the police received a warning about the attack just one hour before. Expressing his dissatisfaction over a delay in the delivery of intelligence information, he said it did not give police enough time to stop the bombings.

But one hour should be enough for police to better prepare for or prevent the attack by deploying security officers to the scene. It should give police a window period for making a phone call to the shopping mall and giving it a timely warning so that evacuation could be made.

Pol Gen Chakthip still owes the public an explanation over what security officials did during this window period.

If the intelligence service was more efficient and the information was given to police without the "delay", the attack could have been prevented or better handled.

The Cross Culture Foundation, which has continually monitored violence in the deep South issued a statement after the Tuesday bomb blast, pointing out that the incident indicates lax security measures in public places and a lack of protection for civilians, particularly women and children.

The foundation makes the right point. Tuesday's bomb attack raises questions about the effectiveness of security measures as it it's evident the situation has not been improved even though financial and personnel resources have been increasingly mobilised.

Since 2004, the budget to solve violence in the restive South has been significantly increased in which accumulated spending from 2004 to 2016 stands at 265 billion baht.

The 2016 fiscal year budget is recorded as the highest allocation for government spending of about 30.9 billion baht to handle the southern violence -- more than double from the 2004 budget of 13.5 billion baht.

Most of the budget has gone to military units and security offices. Part of it has been spent on daily allowances and compensation for over 70,000 officials stationed in the region as a "security tightening-up measure".

Money also went to several state-funded programmes designed to improve community livelihoods such as skills training. But it's been criticised for failing to solve the root cause of violence because the government still applies its top-down approach.

The recent attack reflects there is much work to be done by the government to build peace in the restive region. It must be reminded that the recent attack is just the tip of the iceberg that has caused more than a decade of southern violence which has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 Buddhist and Muslim civilians and officials.

In a bid to counter the violence, Thai governments have increased deployment of security forces -- many of whom are junior officers unfamiliar with the problems in the region -- and intensive surveillance. Martial law has been implemented in the three southernmost provinces -- Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

The government should shift its attention to strengthening social security to raise the value and equality of the local Muslim population. Some state solutions have caused resentment among local people.

The current military government has still failed to gain trust from people in the region despite its work on peace talks with an umbrella organisation of insurgency groups called Mara Patani.

The dialogue, which was launched in 2013 under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, was resumed by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's administration in late 2014.

In February, a Joint Working Group-Peace Dialogue Process formed by representatives of Thai government negotiators and Mara Patani agreed on a framework to pilot a "safety zone" in the three southern provinces.

Achieving this mission will prove the potential of Mara Patani to deal with various insurgent groups and demonstrate that peace can possibly be resumed.

However, the bomb blast on Tuesday was suspected to have been launched by a rogue unit of insurgents who refused to join peace talks.

The government needs to change its military mindset when it comes to security measures. While the deployment of security forces remains important, tactical approaches such as effective intelligence services must be strengthened.

It is time that security operations in the region were held accountable to the people. Effectiveness of budget spending and efficiency in security measures need to be scrutinised and guaranteed along with the peace dialogue.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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