Separatist chief says Thai government’s peace overtures in the south is propaganda.
Thai and Malaysian leaders are meeting to discuss the situation in south Thailand, but analysts say Bangkok’s past extra-judicial killings of suspected separatists is a road block to peace.
General Sondhi Boonyaratglin, the Thai army chief, met his Malaysian counterpart General Abdul Aziz Zainal on Tuesday to discuss the uprising in the Thai south.
|Twelve people die every week in the Thai south|
Sondhi, who led a coup on September 19 to depose Thakisin Shinawatra, also met Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Malaysian prime minister, but no details of their talks on Tuesday were made public.
Sunai Phasuk, an analyst with Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera that the Thai military needs “to stop being seen as an agent of abuse, corruption and extra-judicial killings”.
Since taking power, the military government has promised to solve the situation in the south.
Surayud Chulanont, the interim prime minister, has made three visits to the south but has yet to engage in any talks with separatist groups.
Sunai says 12 people die every week in violence in the south. More than 600 schools in southern provinces will be closed as of Wednesday amid escalating violence.
“We have only seen promises so far and it has been two months already … way too long to wait.
“When the new government made its first move [to engage the south in September] and the insurgents responded with more violence, the government could have started acting in good faith and stopped its brutality and ill-treatment.
“They have still not made any promise to end the extra-judicial killings and end all the abuse of southern villagers,” says Sunai.
Wan Kadir Che Wan, the president of umbrella separatist group Bersatu, agrees.
“[The government says] to the world that they are doing everything to help the people in the south. For us we do not feel any of that,” he says, adding that Thais in the south “are still one of the poorest in the country.”
In August 2003, just months before there was a new outbreak of violence in the south, Malaysian authorities captured Manase Jeh-da, also known as Nasae Saning in Terengganu.
Thai authorities had a $5,000 bounty on the separatist. The Malaysians handed him over to the Thais, believing he would be tried in court.
|“The Thai military will have to show the Malaysian military that they can be trusted once again … that anyone who is handed over will not be executed” Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch analyst|
Thai media, citing intelligence sources, later reported that Manase was interrogated and tortured by the Thai military to reveal the whereabouts of other separatists. On the day that operations began against these other separatists, Manase reportedly escaped from custody and was killed by police in Pattani.
Says Sunai: “The Thai military will have to show the Malaysian military that they can be trusted once again. They have to show the Malaysians that anyone who is handed over will not be executed.”
Pakorn Kreeyakorn, secretary-general of the Islamic Centre of Thailand, told Al Jazeera: “One of the best ways the Thai government can resolve the situation is if it works closely with the Malaysian government and groups there.
“General Surayud went to the south and apologised. This was a good psychological tactic and that goodwill is still there … they must continue to talk.”
But Sunai believes that the Thai military must do more than talk if it hopes to achieve peace in the south.
“Sondhi needs to send a strong message by investigating all these suspected military abuses and holding these individuals accountable for their actions. Only when justice is done and seen to be done can the situation improve. So far they have failed to do so.”