Thai army says situation in Muslim south is “getting better”

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Pramote Prom-in_Thai army_Arno Maierbrugger
Colonel Pramote Prom-in, Spokesman of the Thai Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command. Photo: Arno Maierbrugger

The Thai army is confident that it will reach improvement for the volatile situation in the southernmost provinces of Thailand which have been plagued by sectarian violence for many years.

“Due to perpetrators distorting and exploiting history, race and religion, more than 15,000 innocent people have been killed or injured,” the Thai military government said in a statement when it introduced a policy to resolve the problems and develope the area under the direct responsibility of the National Steering Committee for Policy and Strategy implementation, an executive body of the ruling junta.

“The southernmost provinces of Thailand [Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla] have never been an Islamic state under Shariah law, therefore they are not the area that needs to be fought over by jihad,” the statement went on.

The government aims to restore peace in the region in three stages, Colonel Pramote Prom-in, Spokesman of the Thai Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command, told Inside Investor.

In the first step, it will “take control of the situation, resolve existing problems and enable state agencies to work in the area”. In a second step, there will be “offensive operations” in conjunction with a development process involving the civil sector, police and local volunteers, including self-defense committees in villages, so that military forces can be withdrawn from the area. The third stage will then deal with enrichment of sustainable peace and further development of the area., with responsibility given back to local authorities.

At present, the efforts to resolve the problems are under the joint responsibility of the Internal Security Operation Command 4 (ISOC 4), the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC) and regional government agencies.

Thailand Muslims_Arno Maierbrugger
Thai Muslims at a beach in Songkhla province. Tourism has suffered due to the volatile security situation in Thailand’s South. Photo: Arno Maierbrugger

The government is supporting the southern people’s education, religion and cultural development, provides financial support to pupils and students regardless whether they are Buddhists or Muslims, has launched a programme against narcotics abuse together with religious leaders, is improving conditions in hospitals and tries to address tensions and resolve problems in a peaceful way, the Colonel pointed out.

“The situation is getting better, but we need to improve people’s lives and focus on security and development at the same time,” Prom-in said, adding that there was “no complaint about the human rights situation in the area since six months.”

“We offer support for private Islamic schools and religious activities, pay for scholars in mosque committees and even have an overseas student programme in cooperation with the University of Egypt,” he said, pointing out that Muslim and Buddhist Thais have been living in harmony ever since before the insurgency started in the area, fed by “claims and propaganda by perpetrators”.

“There is no religious agenda against Muslims from the government – 90 per cent of the teachers in the South are Muslims, 50 per cent of police officers and 100 per cent of provincial government officials,” he argued.

In terms of pushing development, “we need to start from the grassroots to decrease the social gap by developing the economy and reduce crime and smuggling which are one of the reasons for violence erupting here, not just religion,” Prom-in said.

Plans are underway to build a new industrial zone at the southern Sadao border with a focus on rubber farming. There are also plans for an industrial estate in Pattani and another one in Narathiwat.

Asked whether the Islamic State (IS) or its ideas play any role in the conflict, the Colonel said that IS is “one of the major concerns” on ISOC’s roadmap to withdrawal from the region.

“So far we have not seen any movements that could be related to the IS, but we continue to monitor the situation,” he said. “Thailand does not have any conflict with the IS which is a a positive signal.”

Currently, around 1.8 million Muslims live in the southern regions of Thailand, along with 300,000 Buddhists.

“They used to live together without problems, and we want to return to this situation, abandoning extremist violence that only tries to destabilise and create fear,” the Colonel said.

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Colonel Pramote Prom-in, Spokesman of the Thai Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command. Photo: Arno Maierbrugger

The Thai army is confident that it will reach improvement for the volatile situation in the southernmost provinces of Thailand which have been plagued by sectarian violence for many years.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pramote Prom-in_Thai army_Arno Maierbrugger
Colonel Pramote Prom-in, Spokesman of the Thai Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command. Photo: Arno Maierbrugger

The Thai army is confident that it will reach improvement for the volatile situation in the southernmost provinces of Thailand which have been plagued by sectarian violence for many years.

“Due to perpetrators distorting and exploiting history, race and religion, more than 15,000 innocent people have been killed or injured,” the Thai military government said in a statement when it introduced a policy to resolve the problems and develope the area under the direct responsibility of the National Steering Committee for Policy and Strategy implementation, an executive body of the ruling junta.

“The southernmost provinces of Thailand [Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla] have never been an Islamic state under Shariah law, therefore they are not the area that needs to be fought over by jihad,” the statement went on.

The government aims to restore peace in the region in three stages, Colonel Pramote Prom-in, Spokesman of the Thai Fourth Army Area Command’s Internal Security Operations Command, told Inside Investor.

In the first step, it will “take control of the situation, resolve existing problems and enable state agencies to work in the area”. In a second step, there will be “offensive operations” in conjunction with a development process involving the civil sector, police and local volunteers, including self-defense committees in villages, so that military forces can be withdrawn from the area. The third stage will then deal with enrichment of sustainable peace and further development of the area., with responsibility given back to local authorities.

At present, the efforts to resolve the problems are under the joint responsibility of the Internal Security Operation Command 4 (ISOC 4), the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC) and regional government agencies.

Thailand Muslims_Arno Maierbrugger
Thai Muslims at a beach in Songkhla province. Tourism has suffered due to the volatile security situation in Thailand’s South. Photo: Arno Maierbrugger

The government is supporting the southern people’s education, religion and cultural development, provides financial support to pupils and students regardless whether they are Buddhists or Muslims, has launched a programme against narcotics abuse together with religious leaders, is improving conditions in hospitals and tries to address tensions and resolve problems in a peaceful way, the Colonel pointed out.

“The situation is getting better, but we need to improve people’s lives and focus on security and development at the same time,” Prom-in said, adding that there was “no complaint about the human rights situation in the area since six months.”

“We offer support for private Islamic schools and religious activities, pay for scholars in mosque committees and even have an overseas student programme in cooperation with the University of Egypt,” he said, pointing out that Muslim and Buddhist Thais have been living in harmony ever since before the insurgency started in the area, fed by “claims and propaganda by perpetrators”.

“There is no religious agenda against Muslims from the government – 90 per cent of the teachers in the South are Muslims, 50 per cent of police officers and 100 per cent of provincial government officials,” he argued.

In terms of pushing development, “we need to start from the grassroots to decrease the social gap by developing the economy and reduce crime and smuggling which are one of the reasons for violence erupting here, not just religion,” Prom-in said.

Plans are underway to build a new industrial zone at the southern Sadao border with a focus on rubber farming. There are also plans for an industrial estate in Pattani and another one in Narathiwat.

Asked whether the Islamic State (IS) or its ideas play any role in the conflict, the Colonel said that IS is “one of the major concerns” on ISOC’s roadmap to withdrawal from the region.

“So far we have not seen any movements that could be related to the IS, but we continue to monitor the situation,” he said. “Thailand does not have any conflict with the IS which is a a positive signal.”

Currently, around 1.8 million Muslims live in the southern regions of Thailand, along with 300,000 Buddhists.

“They used to live together without problems, and we want to return to this situation, abandoning extremist violence that only tries to destabilise and create fear,” the Colonel said.

 

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