By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4 revealed progress on a press tour at Sirinthon Military Camp in Yala on Tuesday. Authorities said they were on the right track to solve the insurgency, but they needed support from the media in their peacekeeping efforts.
Isoc Region 4 secretary Maj-General Niphol Rongsawat said the operation to provide security had been successful in the seven major urban areas in the deep South – Muang Pattani, Muang Yala, Muang Narathiwat, Betong, Tak Bai, Sungai Kolok and Hat Yai – as the number of attacks had decreased in recent years.
“Over the last six months, we have observed that the attacks in the South have reduced by 33 per cent and we have successfully protected the core areas in the city centres,” Niphol said.
“Even though last month we saw the car bomb attack at Big C Pattani, that department store is situated outside the safe city area, so it showed that the insurgents now aim to attack easy targets outside the city.”
Niphol said the reduction meant that military operations to secure core areas had been successful.
However, he cautioned that insurgents also used political tactics such as campaigning through human rights NGOs to discredit authorities and infiltrating media organisations to publicise news that depicted authorities negatively.
“We would like to ask reporters to be careful in reports about the southern insurgency and avoid being used as a propaganda tool for insurgents,” he said.
“The southern insurgency is not about human rights and equality, so negative reports will cause an adverse impact on the peacekeeping operation and make the public sympathise with attackers.”
According to the statistics presented by Isoc, only 336 violent incidents occurred last year, compared to the peak of attacks in 2008 when the deep South suffered 1,169 attacks.
However, Isoc statistics conflicted with those from the Deep South Incident Database (DSID), which was implemented by the peace advocacy group Deep South Watch, although both statistics showed a similar trend.
Muhammad Ayub Patan, Deep South Watch senior editor, said that even though the frequency of attacks was lower, the severity of the attacks were higher and innocent civilians were still the victims.
“The authorities perform well in providing more security in the urban areas, but I don’t think that a military approach alone will achieve peace in the South. It is the duty of the authorities to keep law and order, but they have to respect human rights and assure social justice as well,” Muhammad said. He said the first thing to consider in the bloody conflict was the lives of innocent civilians, since both the authorities and insurgents severely violated human rights.