Back Down South

Come on down and dance, If you get the chance,
We’re gonna spit on the rival. All I wanna know, 
Is how far you wanna go, Fighting for survival. 

“Back Down South”, by Kings Of Leon

I have been occupied with Security Studies lately and now, the latest news concerning some issues of this field of study in Thailand are, again, human rights and the still ongoing conflict in the Southern districts. Thailand just extended the state of emergency and, as far as I am concerned, this is not the best sign Thai officials can give to the one’s who are involved in the conflict. Of course, there are two sides to the story. The one is saying that the army needs to protect civilians and prevent attacks; the other one is saying that the intimidation caused by the permanent presence of the armed forces is driving them to use force.

The conflict is going on for nearly a decade now. The human cost is a shame and a resolution is not about to be reached anytime soon. This drives me to further investigate the issue on its roots and developments. The outcome of this issue will be presented here as soon as I have finished the report. I just collected sources of information that I have to read, analyze and synthesize and then you will be able to read it here. But with this post, I will just give you an update on the current situation in advance.

An incident, that occurred just recently, made sure the situation down South would stay tensed. Two soldiers raped a Muslim girl, taped the act and then posted the video on the Internet (First committing a detestable crime, then providing evidence publicly…!? Sometimes I am not sure what drives human minds…)

A senior Sheik of a Southern local community proclaimed his sentiments towards the Thai government and armed forces and his expectations when he publicly stated that “If the government doesn’t take hard action we will rise up… (locals would) not stand by and allow our honor to be put in the mud.” I understand their sentiments and feelings, as such a crime is simply not acceptable. The authorities and the government should condemn any other outcome than appropriate punishment according to the law. We will see what the army and it’s pals will come up with this time.

Speaking of the army though, they had to take losses lately as well. Several soldiers have been killed in attacks recently, so the stance of the army towards not withdrawing any company is understandable. Security for the non-Muslim fraction of the population down South can, to this point, not be guaranteed. Several civil and student groups called for the withdrawal of the army and the revocation of the state of emergency for the Southern districts after the alleged rape case. Withdrawing the army is a sensitive matter, especially regarding the ongoing bomb attacks and the state of uncertainty. In order to maintain security in the region and resolve the issue more peacefully, the government has to come up with other approaches than used the last eight years as soon as possible. Dialogue is a key to achieve this and therefore the Yingluck government has to push for a diplomatic solution. As known, the conflict has been going on for years now, so I would be surprised if a solution will be achieved anytime soon.

Back to ongoing human rights issues now in the land of smiles. The following headline this morning caused a rather weird facial expression of mine: “Kingdom moving in right direction on human rights”. First thing I did was taking a look at my calendar, in order to make sure I haven’t been in coma or so. No Snow White experience for me (where a 100% positive human rights record is kissing me awake), just an interesting headline. So, Thailand is on the right track on human rights. I do not think so actually. Following the lese majeste cases and the ongoing crackdown on the Internet, I think the land of smile is not on the right track. Kudos for implementing or dealing with recommendations made by NGOs, CSOs or UN agencies, but there is a more fundamental problem here. These accepted recommendations are not as fundamental as the issues where change is a dire need. To improve and maintain the implementation of fundamental rights is important and yes, a very good development in Thailand. No one argues that. But the implementation of the fundamental rights itself is by far more important. And that is where Thailand is moving backwards rather than forwards.

Reporters without Borders just recently published their 2012 report on “Enemies of the Internet” and dedicated a whole two paragraphs to Thailand and its neighbor Burma. Keep in mind that Burma used to be a (or still is) a country run by a repressive military junta (so, no freedom of expression or so). Here is what RSF has to say:

“Thailand and Burma may be about to change places. If Thailand continues down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lèse-majesté charges, it could soon join the club of the world’s most repressive countries as regards the Internet. Burma could soon leave the Enemies of the Internet list if the country takes the necessary measures. It has clearly embarked on a promising period of reforms, which has included the release of journalists and bloggers and the restoration of access to blocked websites. It must now go further by abandoning censorship altogether, releasing the journalists and bloggers still held, dismantling the surveillance apparatus that was built on the national Internet platform, and repealing the Electronic Act.”

So, frankly speaking. Thailand is moving to a point, Burma needed 50 years of military rule and repression to reach and maintain (speaking in freedom of expression terms of course). Is that where a country striving for peace and prosperity should move to!? I don’t think so. So, the headline was just a bummer.

Thailand has to be careful. They are in a precarious situation where internal struggles  are taking a lot of time and power away from more other pressing issues. Reconciliation will not be reached anytime soon unfortunately. Therefore the Yingluck government is well advised shifting attention to e.g. improve economic cooperation within ASEAN, implement protective measures regarding natural disasters (the next raining season is not that far away) and improve educational standards (not just through tabloid PCs – nice gimmick but more fundamental change needed here as well).

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