Calm before a storm? Or peace is winning at last?
For the people – both civilians and military alike – in the restive deep south who are used to violence perpetrated by Islamic militants and rogue security forces on daily basis, the fact that there was not a single violent incident on the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 10th of November came as a total surprise although welcoming.
Many of them have started wondering whether it was calm before a storm? Or whether peace is winning the battle at last?
There were mixed reactions to the unusual drop in violent incidents.
General Ekachai Srivilas, director of the Peace and Good Governance of the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, attributed the usual calm to secret peace dialogues currently held between representatives of governmental agencies such as the Internal Security Operations Command and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre and militant gangs operating in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces as well as the peace forums conducted by civil societies.
Citing property boom in Pattani, the general said that investors appeared to have realized that the situation was improving to the extent that they became confident to make investment on property projects.
He added that even the KPI had launched a course on peace building for peope who are concerned with the unrest situation in the far south with 30 people being accepted to take the course.
General Ekachai’s optimistic view was shared by Mr Sitthipong Chantharaviroj, chair of the Muslim Lawyers Foundation. He agreed that the situation appeared to be improving because of the positive policies implemented by SBPAC which have won increasing trust among the local Muslims and the peace activities undertaken by civil societies.
Besides the four “peaceful” days in two weeks’ time, there were a few serious violent incidents: a car bombing and a motorcycle bombing in Ruesoe district of Narathiwat on November 3; a roadside bombing of a police patrol car in Kok Po district of Pattani on November 7 and the fatal shooting of a teacher in Yarang district of Pattani on November 9.
Mr Sitthipong also attributed the improving situation to the fact that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has personally taken charge of overseeing the unrest situation and security affairs as well as the recent introduction of re-education programme under the Internal Security Act for militants who turned themselves in.
However, an ISOC officer said that it was still unclear and too early to assume that the seemingly improving situation was the result of secret peace dialogues between government representatives and militant groups.
But he suggested that the seemingly improving situation might be attributable to the recent successful crackdown of a major contraband and illegal oil smuggling racket in Pattani. He said that the racket whose underground business worth about 500 million baht a month had paid bribes to every governmental unit and also the militants.
A well-informed police source also attributed the unusual calm to successful crackdowns on militant gangs and contraband racketeers causing them to temporarily suspend their illicit activities.
But he warned that after the calm these illegal elements might step up their terror attacks again.
Mr Abdulloh Hajiyama, head of the Muslim Intellectual Association, said he suspected that the militant gangs might be taking a break after they had carried out several violent incidents since the end of the Ramadan.
"I believe they (militants) are waiting for the right moment to renew attacks which may be more violent," he added.
For Mukta Seekaji, a coordinator of the 93 suspected militants who earlier surrendered to the authorites, he said he didn’t see any change of the situation at all.
Caption : The peaceful atmosphere in central of Yala province.
Photo by Pakorn Puengnetr