Thailand takes battle to deep-South's Islamic schools
Analysis by Abdullah Wangni and Peter Janssen, dp
After almost four years of battling a deadly separatist struggle against a seemingly nameless foe in Thailand's deep South, the Thai military have learned a thing or two.
Firstly, they are now convinced that the main organizer behind the violence, which has claimed more than 2,500 lives since early 2004, is the BRN-Coordinate, the political arm of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional or National Revolutionary Front.
BRN-Cordinate is blamed for the January 4, 2004, raid by Muslim militants on an army arms depot in Narathiwat that made away with 300 war weapons and is now seen as the watershed for the region's transition from a long-simmering separatist struggle into a nasty conflict with daily shootings, bombings and beheadings.
Secondly, Thai military intelligence is convinced that the BRN-Coordinate has used the deep South's Islamic schools (pondoks) and religious teachers (ustas) to recruit and instruct a new generation of Muslim youths dedicated to the Pattani separatist cause and a more militant form of Islam.
The deep South, comprising Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces, was an independent Islamic sultanate known as Pattani for hundreds of years before being conquered by Bangkok in 1786.
The area came under direct rule of the Bangkok bureaucracy in 1902, and was subject to a military-led assimilation campaign in the late 1940s that sparked a separatist struggle that has sputtered on and off for the past six decades.
Although the deep South has remained an essentially separatist fight, it has taken on a new al-Qaeda flavour in recent years, complete with beheadings and terrorizing civilians, partly due to the influx of a new generation of ustas to the traditional pondok school system, analysts say.
The Thai military is convinced that these foreign-trained ustas, especially those from Indonesia, are at the heart of the problem.
"The BRN-Coordinate has been recruiting followers from the Thai Students Association of Indonesia," claimed Colonel Shinawat Maendej, Commander of the Army Infantry Unit 1 in Narathiwat.
Shinawat told a recent press briefing that the BRN-Coordinate has for years been recruiting Thai graduates from Indonesian universities in Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta, and then providing them with ideological and military training with help from the Indonesia's Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Jemaah Islamiah (JI) - the radical Java-based Islamic group blamed for the 2002 Bali bombing.
When these graduates return to Thailand many of them find jobs at pondoks, where they recruit and radicalize youths, said Shinawat.
Most southern specialists agree that there is an element of truth to the hypothesis.
There have been many arrests in the deep South and many of the suspected insurgents have fingered their ustas as ringleaders.
"The evidence is mounting against the pondoks and some of the radical teachers, forcing many of them to run away," said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political science professor at Chulalongkorn University and a leading expert on the southern conflict.
Mahamu Mama, 48, alias Pador Mamu, is one such former usta now on the lam. Mahamu is believed to be the mastermind behind the January 4, 2004 incident. He fled to Indonesia last year, sources said.
While it is believable that some ustas are involved in the conflict, the military's campaign to denounce religious teachers as prime suspects is a risky business that can easily backfire.
"Most of us went to Indonesia to study religion, not bomb-making," said Nuradin, a ustas in Pattani. "The government should not accuse us without proof."
False accusations against religious teacher by the military can lead to yet more violence.
"Some military officers make accusations against us just to impress their bosses," said Rusdee, another Pattani ustas. "This ruins many careers and means innocent teachers have to flee abroad. Others have taken up arms against the government."
Nearly 80 per cent of the current students in the deep South attend Islamic religious schools, which are subsidized by the state on a per capita basis.
Worawit Baru, a community development expert at Prince Songkhla Univserity in Pattani, has long advised the government to improve the curriculum, teaching standards and learning equipment of the pondoks rather than trying to force Muslim children to go to Thai public schools - the traditional incubus for Thai nationalism.
While the government is starting to heed the advice (for instance Thailand recently agreed to cooperate with Malaysia in improving the quality of its southern pondoks) it must tread carefully.
"It's a very sensitive issue for local people," said Panitan. "It's a major battle because the Muslim community leaders see the pondoks as their sphere of influence."
Special F-16 Patch to celebrate King Bhumibol's 60th accession to the throne and 80th brithday anniversary.
BT-67. Static display in Children's Day 2550 (2007) at Don Mueang Airport. This aircraft belongs to 461sq of Wing 46 Phitsanulok. Its role is supporting Royal Rain Project and general airlift. This special painting say "We Love The King" to celebrate 60th King Bhumibol accession to the throne (Diamond Jubilee) on 9 June 2006.
RTAF PC-9M patch celebrate King Bhumibol's 60th accession to the throne and 80th brithday anniversary.
Last edited by Skyman; 08-26-2007 at 11:45 PM.
Oh my god ! Today RTA in a unkown South Thailand city,shoot to 4 Muslim......
BTW, I keep getting bad reviews about Suvarnabhumi Airport (disorganised, bad bathrooms, spots left unfinished, etc).
Is it as bad as people say, or is it just negativity mongering?
Seem like they enjoy killing more than anything.
Insurgents kill woman teacher, torch schools
Attacks seen as acts of revenge against arrests
Pattani _ A female teacher was shot dead in Pattani's Sai Buri district yesterday, as insurgent groups appeared to focus their attacks on teachers and schools in the area. Kesini Pipemtep, 42, was gunned down by two assailants on a motorcycle while she was walking into Sasanasuksa school, police said.
She died on the way to hospital.
The murder followed a wave of arson at four schools in two districts.
Authorities believed the attacks were carried out in revenge for the recent arrests of 10 suspected insurgents in those areas.
Attacks occurred before dawn and appeared to be coordinated.
The arsonists broke into Ban Buereh school in Sai Buri district, and Ban Karubi and Ban Pomoh schools in Kapho district, and set books, tables, and chairs on fire.
Later in the morning insurgents also torched Ban Plonghoy school in Kapho district. The fire partly destroyed a kindergarten building.
Ban Buereh school suffered the most severe damage, losing three classrooms and the library. Several rare books were lost in the fire, teachers said.
In Yala province, two bombs exploded in front of Ban Phapu Ngoh school in Raman district early yesterday, police said.
They believe the first bomb was exploded to lure security forces to the scene before the second was detonated. There were no reports of casualties.
The school director closed down the school yesterday for safety reasons.
In Songkhla, ice cream vendor Roheem Doloh was shot dead in front of Ban Kok Tok school in Saba Yoi district.
In Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district, suspected insurgents killed community leader Maleh Niheng, 28, and injured Mayuha Mayuso, 40, a member of the municipality of tambon Paluru.
Human Rights Watch will today release a report on the violence in the deep South, in which it condemns southern insurgents for killing civilians.
In the 104-page report, entitled No One is Safe: Insurgent Attacks on Civilians in Thailand's Southern Border Provinces, the human rights group says there have been more than 2,400 deaths in the violence in the troubled region.
The report details human rights abuses and violence committed against civilians by separatist militants in the predominantly ethnic Malay Muslim provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla from January 2004 to July 2007.
The report is based on interviews with eyewitnesses, families of the victims, academics, journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and state officials.
''After decades of low-intensity insurgency, Thailand's southern region is becoming the scene of a brutal armed conflict,'' said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
''Separatist militants are intentionally targeting both Buddhist and Muslim civilians in shootings, bombings and machete attacks.''
Village-based militants called Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani (Patani Freedom Fighters) in the loose network of the BRN-Coordinate (National Revolution Front-Coordinate) had now emerged as the backbone of the new generation of separatist militants, the report says.
The separatists seek to forcibly liberate what they call Patani Darulsalam (Islamic Land of Patani), from what they call a Buddhist Thai occupation.
The report says that separatist militants carried out more than 3,000 attacks on civilians from January 2004 to July 2007.
During the same period, there were around 500 attacks targeting various military units and their personnel, and a similar number of attacks targeting police units and their personnel.
Of the 2,463 people killed in attacks during the past three-and-a-half years, 2,196 (or 89%) were civilians.
Buddhist Thais and ethnic Malay Muslims were killed by bomb explosions, shootings, assassinations, ambushes and by assailants wielding machetes.
Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch's representative in Thailand, said it was saddening that the southern insurgents did not show any sign of regret for the civilian deaths.
There were signs of efforts by the interim government to readjust its attitude and its actions.
''A fundamental principle of the law of war is the distinction between civilians and military groups,'' he said
While killing people is the worst thing the human can do, but our militant gone even further. The kill EVERYONE without choosing its target. Firstly they said they need to kill Buddhist becasue they are not the same. But now they said they should kill Muslim too and convince its fellow that killing is the way to meet the god. Very crazy.
It sad that things are gone this way. I have many Muslim friend and they are very nice. The sadest thing is the militant is try to trick its own religion to meet its goal.