Academics Agree With Call For Troop Withdrawal From Restive South

Mr. Hassan Toyib

(26 June) The Southern
insurgents? demand that the Thai authorities withdraw most of their troops from the Deep South as
pre-condition for peace dialogue has been met with mixed reactions. 

 
The demand was greeted with scorns from top
politicians and military commanders, but a number of academics and activists has concurred that
troop withdrawal would help pave way for mutual trust between the Thai authorities and the
insurgents. 

Previously, Mr. Hassan Toyib,
representative of the BRN Coordinate, believed to be the umbrella organization of various separatist
militants in the Deep South, has released his 4th statement concerning the peace dialogue in a video
on Youtube website. The translation of his speech was provided to Khaosod by Mr. Hara Shintaro, a
lecturer at Songkhla Nakarin University.


Among other demands, Mr. Toyib
called for soldiers from First, Second, and Third Area Army to be withdrawn from 3 Southern bordern
provinces and 5 districts in Songkhla province – the region Mr. Toyib termed collectively as Pattani.
 Mr. Toyib said the Fourth Area Army could remain in Pattani, but they were to be kept in their
barracks, away from local villages. 

The BRN representative also
demanded the police and the heavily armed Border Patrol Police to stay away from Pattani villages.
Mr. Toyib said the partial troop withdrawal is prerequisite for the dialogue between Siamese
Colonial Hunters and his organization.

Top officials almost immediately lashed at the
statement. Vice PM Chalerm Yoobamrung said that withdrawing soldiers from the Deep South is
unthinkable.

Why would we decrease the troops number? Even with so many soldiers in the
area, there are still many attacks. What part of the brain the BRN was using when they made the
demand? Mr. Chalerm was quoted as saying.

ACM Sukumpol Suwannatat, Minister of Defense, similarly
refused to consider the demands. He said the BRN was not being sincere in their call for troops
withdrawal, and expressed his disappointment that the BRN posted their demands on Youtube instead of
passing them to Thai officials via Malaysian government, the mediator in the peace dialogue.

They [the BRN] should be aware of who they are talking to. We are the Thai state. We operate
under Thai constitution. We already honor them a lot by loweing ourselves to engage in dialogues
with them in the first place, ACM Sukumpol said.

However, in interviews with Khaosod, many academics and activists based in the Deep South
expressed their agreement to the BRN′s offer.

One such figure is Mr. Srisompop
Chitpiromsri, director of the Deep South Watch Center at Pattani campus of Prince Songkla
University, said that the BRN′s demand is not too unreasonable as it does not call for total troop
withdrawal.

Mr. Srisompop argued that the issue of
troop pull-out has long been favored by local residents in Pattani province, and the BRN was simply
tapping into that desire. He believed that Fouth Area Army is capable maintaining security in the
Deep South on its own. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that troops withdrawal would be a long and
complicated process.


Ms. Subaidah
Dalah, director of Burapa Islamic School in Narathiwat province, said that local people, not only
the BRN, want to see the decrease of soldiers in the area. At least, she said, the troops should not
be deployed in so many places as is the case in current situation.

Even though the
soldiers might perform their duty well, the local populace would still feel intimidated by the
[overwhelming] presence of troops, she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sakee Pitakkumpol, a
fellow at Peace Studies Center in Had Yai campus of
Prince Songkla University, said in
an interview that he′s worried about extreme positions taken by both sides in the Deep South. He
urged Thai authorities and BRN to be open-minded and give opportunity to the middle ground. He
warned that total refusal to BRN′s demands might put an end to the peace dialogue.

Mr. Abdullahman Abdulsamad, chairman of Islamic
Committee of Five Border Provinces, said the BRN′s demands should be considered carefully by the
Thai authorities before they accept or reject them. He said the Thai government can take the
initiative to win trust by canceling the Emergency Decree imposed in the Deep South.

As
for the question of troop withdrawal, Mr. Abdullahman said the BRN should also give promise to the
Thai authorities that no violent incident would be committed by their militants once the Thai army
withdrew their troops.

I believe this insurgency will come to and end, but it will
take a long time because the problems have been here for a long time. It′s hard to image they will
be resolved within 1-2 years, he said.