Published on July 17, 2007
Those arrested will be questioned by military interrogators to determine if they have been involved in the armed struggle against the Thai state and the campaign of terror against civilians. Their period in captivity will be used to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the charges and to prosecute them in a court of justice. Every effort must be made to ensure that all the suspects are accorded the due process of law and that their human rights are respected.
The sudden change in strategy and tactics coincided with another sharp increase in the Defence Ministry's proposed expenditure - to almost Bt150 billion - slated for fiscal year 2008. Whether the surge in military activity against the rebels is a one-off publicity stunt aimed to persuade the sceptical public that the armed forces actually deserve the huge injection of taxpayer's money, to do a better job of defending the country against the enemy, remains to be seen
It is worth noting that until recently, security forces had not so much as tried to put up a real fight against the insurgents, who have been allowed to go on the rampage, harassing security forces and terrorising civilians. Since the outbreak of the insurgency in the deep South in January 2004, more than 2,300 people have been killed and thousands injured or maimed. It also remains to be seen whether the military action can be sustained long enough to produce a concrete, measurable, positive outcome - such as better protection of civilians, fewer insurgent attacks and an increase in the number of insurgents captured or killed.
In the meantime, the military is trumpeting its "achievements" in the South. But their self-congratulations for the ongoing offensive should be taken with a grain salt. It has been said that amateurs talk about strategy while professionals talk about logistics.
For all the troops and money poured into the restive region over the past three and a half years, it is amazing how the military has failed to exercise common sense in its handling of the situation in the conflict zones.
First, the security agencies continue to be as disunited as ever, and any hope that they will be able to work together to form a security grid to cover the entire region - which is necessary if they are to take control of the situation - is still a pipe dream.
With between 20,000 and 30,000 troops in the region, one has to ask the question as to why it is so difficult for the military to set up security grids. These should consist of small, well-armed and highly mobile units strategically positioned and connected through sound communication channels and supported by rapid-deployment reinforcements.
Without security grids, insurgents continue to have freedom of movement. No wonder that roadside bombs are so plenty in the restive region and insurgents are just sitting around waiting to detonate the bombs that take out approaching police or military vehicles. The bomb blasts are getting bigger and deadlier but the Army doesn't seem to be learning from the challenges that it is up against.
Too often, military vehicles that have come under attack have been those travelling alone, unescorted. If they had travelled in a convoy, at least the troops would have a fighting chance to protect themselves and to go after the assailants. The military must realise that its performance is being constantly scrutinised by a dubious and concerned public. Many people are beginning to doubt the competence and professionalism of the men in uniform, if not also their will to fight to protect civilians against insurgents.
It is obvious now that in order to convince the people that it deserves a huge budget increase, the military will have to do a lot more, and a lot better.