Beware: We may end up fighting in the wrong battlefield
The second week of February saw a sudden surge of violence in the three southernmost provinces and parts of Songkhla province but the frequency of violent incidents since the beginning of the year has dropped substantially compared to the same period a year ago as insisted by the government.
The perceived improved situation may have prompted those in support of peace talks to claim that the peace process with militant groups under the umbrella organization called Mara Patani may be responsible. But non-military analysts believe that the peace process which has been stalled for several months now has little effect in the change of situation for better.
The non-military analysts have attributed the seemingly improved situation to three factors: the military government is more efficient than its predecessors in dealing with the insurgency problem; the military is in control of the territories with the deployment of altogether 14 regiment of paramilitary rangers in 33 districts making it difficult for the militants to operate; and the increased role of the Internal Security Operations Command in psy-war to win the hearts of the local Muslims and adjustment of development projects to suit the needs of the locals.
Anyhow, it is also possible that the substantial drop in violent incidents may stem from the fact that the militants themselves may have de-escalate their activities. This assumption is manifested in the revenge attacks mounted by the militants following the raid of a major bomb-making workshop in the mangrove forest in Pattani’s Nong Chik district on February 10 by security forces.
Also, the attacks may be symbolic to mark the 3rd anniversary of the death of Maroso Chantharavadee, a local hero of the militants who was killed along with 15 of his men when he led a bungled raid of a marine camp in Narathiwat three years ago.
Then there is another question. Which is why the militants chose to scale down their violent activities?
One theory is that Mara Patani which comprises six militant groups may shift its focus on political approach although the peace process with the government has stalled for several months now. This was manifested in the meeting of the group’s representatives with OIC secretary-general in Kuala Lumpur during the second week of January and their proposal for observer’s status in the OIC similar to the government’s status.
Also, the sudden appearance of prototype rockets claimed by Pulo MKP seems to be intended to send a message that the Pulo MKP is not just a toothless militant group but one with teeth and can bite.
While military operations have subsided, Mara Patani appears to have stepped up its IO or information operations. For those who treat Mara Patani in disdain for being a toothless organization because it does not include BRN militant group should better think again.
Masukree Hari, the chief negotiator of Mara Patani, has his name mentioned the the BRN’s who is who list whereas Arwang Yaba, president of Mara Patani is a close aide to Hassan Taib, chief of the BRN’s negotiation team in talks with representatives of Yingluck Shinawatra government three years ago.
Civil sector in the Deep South will hold an event on February 20 to mark the 3rd year of peace process and it is speculated that Arwang Yaba may give a talk in a forum by means of tele conference.
So, is it possible that the militants are still in the region but they have just shifted their focus from military operations to political activities at home and abroad. And we may end up fighting in the wrong battlefield.
Note : This article was transtlated from the editorial จรวด, เจรจา, ปัญหาใต้ โปรดระวังรบผิดสมรภูมิ!