Separatist plan gets govt rebuke
15-year scheme targets child recruits
Authorities have dismissed as nonsense a fresh move by some members of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement seeking to "declare independence" from Thailand in 15 years.
A source close to the BRN said the 15-year idea was raised in BRN's governing council, known in Malay as the Dewan Pimpinan Parti (DPP), by some members who want to pursue a breakaway for Pattani province despite the ongoing peace talks with authorities. However, several key members of the BRN disagree as they support the peace talks.
The new idea has emerged following a leadership change within the ranks of the separatist movement.
After the so-called seven-step ladder for separatist movements in southern Thailand failed, the new plan primarily aims to spawn separatist ideas among local Muslim children with the aim to recruit one million children for separatist training.
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Masae U-seng, a key figure behind the separatist movement in the deep South, is widely speculated to have been the architect of the seven-step ladder theory.
Masae, who held a senior position in one of the six insurgent groups under the BRN, reportedly died of tuberculosis at a hospital in Malaysia in May last year.
Later on, the BRN appointed Abdullah Wan Mat Noor, secretary-general of DPP, as its new chairman following the death of another senior figure and the DPP's former chairman Sapae-ing Baso on Jan 10.
Mr Abdullah is wanted for treason under a Department of Special Investigation arrest warrant.
Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich, the 4th Army commander, on Sunday dismissed the BRN's separatist plan, saying they were talking nonsense. "They can say whatever they want, but let's look at the present," he said.
Several insurgent suspects have turned themselves in to authorities to support state efforts to develop the southern region, Lt Gen Piyawat said.
In the next 15 years, an electric rail network will link to the southern region while a new airport would be opened in Yala's Betong district, supported by the Bothong airport in Pattani. By that time, nobody will want to join any separatist movement, Lt Gen Piwayat said.
So far, five suspected separatists have turned themselves in after the 4th Army chief gave out a special phone number -- 0925324989 -- and announced he would persuade "those who hold different opinions" if they called to turn themselves in.
The Bangkok Post recently spoke to three leading operational-level figures of the BRN near the Thai-Malaysia border under the condition their names and photos would not be disclosed. They confirmed some leading members of BRN have come up with a new plan for separatist operations.
One of them, who is responsible for propagating separatist ideas, said in his view, the BRN is not pursuing any benefits and that it is only striving to achieve its separatist goals.
He denied reports that the BRN has received financial support from networks involved in illegal operations such as the drug trade or contraband trafficking.
In fact, the BRN's funding comes from a daily contribution of one baht from each member, he said.
"We have to work and contribute one baht each day to the BRN. The money comes from those who do various work including Islamic teachers, or ustaz, and rubber tappers," he said.
He also claimed that the oppression and discrimination of Muslims in southern Thailand is one of the key reasons for the group's separatist movement. "We have been treated like second-class citizens. We are called 'Khaek' and are looked down upon," he said.
Under the proposed separation plan for 2032, at least one million sympathisers would be recruited, with local Muslim children aged 5 and older as primary targets, the BRN member said.
Under the plan, separatist ideas would be inculcated into these children who would also be trained in combat and to use weapons, he said, adding the targets are pupils studying at Tadeeka Islamic schools.
The separatist group's member said the rise of Mr Abdullah as the new BRN leader has reinvigorated the movement as Mr Abdullah once led the BRN's combat force.
Another BRN member said he belongs to a paramilitary unit of the BRN. He joined the BRN following the Tak Bai incident in 2004, in which 85 Muslim men died after being arrested and packed into trucks by army forces sent to Narathiwat's Tak Bai district to break up an anti-government protest.
He said his main task is to plant and detonate bombs at targeted locations. He added his unit calls itself Tentera Jihad Revolusi (TJR), but it is also widely known as RKK (Runda Kampulan Kecil) among Thai authorities.
The unit comprises those who make bombs, those who plant and detonate bombs and those who burn buildings, he said. He added that the deadly drive-by shooting attack on Rangae police station, which left one police officer dead and five others wounded in Narathiwat on March 30, was the work of the BRN in retaliation to the deaths of two separatist members at the hands of authorities earlier.
Another BRN member whose job is to burn buildings said that the task is for beginners in order to develop their mental strength. If they do a good job, they are assigned to "advanced levels" such as bomb-making, he said.
A military source in the deep South said that military intelligence units have known about the floated separatist plan for 2032 for some time and that security forces would do all they can to prevent it.