Insurgents have 'a deep pain' in their hearts
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.
It was reported the clip was uploaded by a group of students in Pattani and authorities in the troubled deep South are trying to track them down.
I wonder what charges will be filed against them?
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.
A background check of the dead victims shows several of them were involved in the Tak Bai incident of Oct 25, 2004 which ended tragically with seven protesters killed by gunfire by security forces/
Seventy-eight others died of suffocation while being transported by truck from the protest site in Narathiwat to a military camp in nearby Pattani province. Some of them were imprisoned and then released.
The alleged leader of the Narathiwat attackers, Maroso Chantharawadee, was one of the protesters in the Tak Bai attack, according to his mother, Jehma Jehnee, 53.
In an article which appeared on the website Pattani Forum, a non-government organisation based in the deep South, and rerun by Isra news agency, Mrs Jehma said Maroso was among the protesters arrested and transported to the Ingkayuth camp in Pattani. Like other arrested protesters, his hands were tied and he was forced to lie face down on the truck on top of another person. But he managed to free his hands and untie the ropes binding other protesters.
Throughout the journey to the camp, the protesters, including himself, were kicked and struck with rifle butts by soldiers.
Maroso told his family that he felt a deep pain in his heart and was very angry because he did nothing wrong. But since the Tak Bai incident, Mrs Jehma said Maroso had become a different person.
Maroso was first wanted after a roadside bomb in his village killed several soldiers on patrol. Since then, he had been implicated in several other violent incidents which took place in the region.
Another dead insurgent, Saudi Ali, spent two-and-a-half years in jail for joining the Tak Bai protest.
Another dead insurgent, Masakree Sasa, has refused to turn himself in despite his sister Farida's repeated pleas because he did not trust the authorities to give him a fair trial. Apparently, the Tak Bai tragedy has left a deep scar among many Thai-Malay Muslims in the far South who feel that, after nine years, justice remains elusive and not seen to be done as no security officers have been held accountable for the deaths of the protesters. Many of them just keep the pain stored in their hearts while others joined the insurgents.
Venting anger at the Muslim mourners for honouring the fallen insurgents will not change the attitude of those who support the insurgency cause.
Nor will the arrest of the Pattani students suspected of uploading the video clip on YouTube help in the attempt to win the hearts and souls of the local Muslims which is as important as winning the insurgency war.
The "healing process" extended to families of the dead insurgents by the government is an approach in the right direction, although it was widely misinterpreted when it was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung. Although no compensation will be paid for the deaths of their loved ones, the families are in need of counselling and understanding about why they were killed.
As part of the "healing process", children of Maroso who led the failed attack on the marine base and who was alleged to be responsible for the killing of Muslim teacher Chonlathee Charoenchon at Ban Tanyong school in Bacho district on Jan 23, would be given educational support so they could carry on with their studies.
Why help the family of a teacher's killer? Some might question the gesture with some justification. My question is: Should we punish the children for the crime committed by their parents?
The children, no matter who their parents are, need education so that, hopefully, they will not follow in the footsteps of their parents.
The security forces have won a battle in Bacho district which will have rendered a blow to the insurgents. But to win the war of insurgency in the far South there is still a long, long way to go.
And to win that war, it is necessary to first win the trust and understanding of local people, especially the families and friends of the insurgents.
But in the nine years since the Tak Bai massacre in 2004, it has become apparent that the use of force alone is not the solution to the conflict _ even though for the time being force is necessary to deal with the insurgency.
A peace dialogue seems to be the right approach, but the big question mark is whom to talk with as the insurgent groups have no clear leaders.
Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.