Sunday, December 05, 2004

Peace Bombs In Southern Thailand

A very odd piece of political theatre is taking place in Thailand's troubled southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani. The prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has ordered an estimated one hundred million paper origami birds - complete with peace messages - to be dropped over the country's Muslim south following the escalation of violence there. While some have hailed the gesture as signalling a new willingness by the government to attempt some kind of rapprochement after months of bloody conflict, it is more likely to be seen as yet another crass example of Thaksin's increasingly perverse and brutal leadership.

In case any one needs reminding, some 540 people have been killed in bloody conflict this year. As a letter from Human Rights Watch, Asian Division, to Thaksin put it recently: "
... at least 78 protesters were suffocated or crushed to death as they were being transferred to detention facilities. Some 1,200 people are still held by military authorities, without access to legal representation and with questionable medical attention". As the same letter goes on to state, during Thaksin's period in office,
Thailand has witnessed a growing disregard for the rule of law and human rights. Your government’s inadequate responses to previous human rights abuses have created an environment in which security forces trample the rule of law and violate human rights without fear of accountability. The predictable rise of a climate of impunity, and the resulting increase in violence, helped set the stage for the tragic deaths in southern Thailand this week. In order to counter this trend, you must move immediately to provide full accountability and respect for human rights throughout Thailand.
While the bombardment by paper birds may help the Thaksin "feel good" factor in the run up to the general election it does little to address the simmering discontents in the south and still less to solve the complex problems that have led to so much violence.


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