Government should be cautious in dealing with the BRN
The government appears to have reacted too strongly against the five demands and, lately, the conditions set by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in return for the rebels’ scaleback of violence during the Ramadan. Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwannatat, in particular, announced vehemently that the conditions were totally unacceptable.
Besides the tough talks, the reactions by the military top brass were too premature. At closer and unbiased scrutiny, some of the conditions set by Mr Hassan Taib through YouTube social media were already put into practice by the government. Hence, the door to peace talks should not be shut down.
For the start, the state agencies involved in the peace process such as the National Security Council and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre should conduct an opinon survey among the various parties concerned about how they feel about the BRN’s conditions and demands. From my personal encounters with several security officers in the restive region, their initial reactions towards the BRN’s move were less emotional and less aggressive.
As said earlier, some of the rebels’conditions were acceptable while others were already put into practice.
Take for an example the condition that "outside" troops, paramilitary rangers and police should be withdrawn from the three southernmost provinces and five districts of Songkhla. As a matter of fact, the army has voluntarily started withdrawing troops and rangers from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd army regions from the troubled region even before the BRN set the conditions. The troop pullout is expected to be completed late this year and a new police force will be deployed in their place.
As for the other condition that Muslim defence volunteers or or sor should be allowed to take leave during the Ramadan, this should be acceptable and, in fact, this was already put into practice although the leave was temporary and did not last the whole fasting month.
The forward command of the Internal Security Operations Command has, in fact, scaled back military operations in order to allow the Muslims to be able to perform religious activities conveniently although it was not clearly stated that search and arrest operations would be completely suspended during the Ramadan.
The liquor sale ban and closure of all night entertainment venues during the fasting month as demanded by the BRN have won the support of many local people. This condition should be acceptable to the government and it could be done, initially with the zoning measure.
Hence, the government needs not have to reject all the rebels’ conditions outright. This should also apply to the five demands earlier made by the BRN.
Personally, I believe that the government will win the support of the local people if it chose not to reject all the rebels’ conditions and demands and to implement some of them which are acceptable. The government should not be afraid that it would lose face for bowing to the BRN if the ultimate objective of the government is to bring about peace and happiness for the people. Rejecting the rebels’ conditions and demands outright may instead cause the government to lose the support of the people. The BRN is tricky and, thus, the government must be cautious.
The government should gauge the opinions of agencies concerned about the BRN’s conditions and then inform the BRN about the conditions which are acceptable or already put into practice. Counter-demands should also be made to the rebels.
In the end, pressure which was intended to heap upon the government would boomerang back to the BRN. After all, what more the rebels will demand in return for the scaleback in violence?
Caption : Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwannatat