No to emergency decree and No to violence too
In the past 3-4 months, there has been a surge of activities from civic groups in the three southernmost provinces against the extension of the emergency decree. Of late, a network of civic groups was established to oppose the extension of the emergency decree by inviting members of the public to write protest letters or send protest postcards to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, several people’s organizations wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra calling her to reconsider extending the emergency decree in the Deep South. (However, the cabinet on December 13 decided to extend the decree for another period of time). Although the open letter fell short of demanding an end to the state of emergency, these organizations used to call for the lifting of the emergency decree on several occasions.
I myself have gone through the campaign message of these organizations and have no objection against any of them. However, I do have a few questions in mind which have kept nagging me. For example, if they are demanding an end of the emergency state, will they also call for the lifting of Martial Law? Because the Martial Law contains provisions which pose greater threat to basic rights than the emergency decree and why only the emergency decree was targeted?
Another disturbing question is: If they do not want the emergency decree, does that mean that they reject violence in the Deep South too? Because it is very strange but true that there has never been a single organization in the region that has taken a firm stand publicly that they reject or condemn violence perpetrated by the insurgents.
It must be understood that there will never be durable peace in the restive region if all the stakeholders in the region do not join forces to resist and condemn violence whether it is committed by the insurgents, security forces or any perpetrators.
I am very concerned that there are several people who have not closely followed the developments in the Deep South and have wondered why there have been only protests against the emergency decree but not against violence. These people are afraid that the protests may convey a wrong message that those who are against emergency decree are supportive of violence.
But let me make it clear here that I honestly believe in the good intention of the civic groups which have good reasons to call for an end of the state of emergency. Yet, there are still a few nagging questions in my mind. At least, it should be noted that violence existed even before the imposition of state of emergency in the middle of 2005.
I have attended several panel discussions on the unrest problem in the Deep South held in the region and outside. There were some speakers who talked as if the region was peaceful until the year 2004 when the government decided to send more troops to the region and to impose state of emergency the following year.
Is that true? I believe everybody should know in his/her heart.
I honestly believe that everyone is fully aware that the state of violence in the restive region is not about ordinary criminal acts which can be dealt with by the Criminal Code but acts of terrorism. Hence, I would like to suggest those who campaign against the emergency decree for whatever the reasons must exercise caution.
Pertaining to the reasons earlier cited, there maybe some questions raised. For instance, the security people may wonder whether violence will be contained without special laws because even with the special laws violence still continues unabated.
Then what are the opinions of the Thai Buddhists, the teacher groups or those who lost their loved ones from the violence perpetrated by the insurgents about ending the state of emergency.
This is a very sensitive issue which should not be dealt with by means of campaigning. There must be an open forum to discuss the issue with the participation of all stakeholders namely people affected by violence such as Thai Buddhists from Ban Kok Krabue in Pattani, teacher groups or people in the business district of Yala which was repeatedly bombed.
In order to maintain peace in the restive region, General Pichet Visaijorn, former commander of the Fourth Army Region, once disclosed that security forces were responsible for more than 2,600 big and small missions a day.
The most worrisome question is: If the army is out because there are no longer special laws but only ordinary law in force, will the existing police force alone be able to cope with the workload of all the missions?
In the attempt to protect the basic rights of the people, it is advisable that one must look at the problem in a broader perspective and also take into account the plight or concern of the minority people in the region.
In the meantime, I think that the military should adjust their role and communications with the other stakeholders in the region. For example, the military must come up with an assessment report about its success or achievements, say, after six months of the imposition of emergency decree.
In my earlier opinion piece, I quoted an opinion by Mr Charnchao Chaiyanukit, deputy permanent secretary of justice, that the best approach on the issue of emergency decree was for all stakeholders to sit down together to discuss about how to make use of the decree for the best benefit instead of just getting rid of it.
More importantly, those who oppose the decree have not made clear that if the state of emergency is lifted then what mechanism will take its place which will enable the government to deal with the violence. If they believe that the government does not need any special law or mechanism, then members of the security forces should be asked whether they agree with this approach or not because they, too, risk their lives on daily basis and many of them have been killed or maimed by the insurgents.
Many regular troops operating in the restive region came from the central, northern and northern regions. But they are also Thai nationals with parents and children like people in the three southernmost provinces.
On political perspective, I believe that no government would like to keep the emergency decree if they have a choice because no one his country or any part of the country to be placed under the state of emergency. If it can be lifted, it will be lifted immediately. The question is why it cannot be lifted yet?
There are enough reasons – some of them acceptable, others maybe not. The Democrat government used to hire some academics in the region to study whether the decree should be lifted or not. The study did not say outright whether the decree should be lifted or not but said it should be adjusted.
But anyhow, I personally agree that the decree has many weak points or loopholes which need to be fixed. For instance the contentious provision which spares members of the security forces from being held accountable for their actions.
As for the continuing campaign against the decree, I suspect it may be just a symbolic gesture rather than a real demand to do away with the law. The real goal is probably to put pressure on the government to solve the problem in the Deep South through political means rather than military approach.
Photo : Postcard campaign for Say No Emergency Decree
This article was translated from editorial of Isra News Center : http://bit.ly/vqAPYh