Det muslimske opprøret i det sørlige Thailand har utviklet seg til noe som minner om krig. Myndighetene har ikke lenger kontrollen. Opprørerne forsøker bevisst å skape en sekterisk konflikt mellom buddhister og muslimer.
Some are already calling it war, a brutal Muslim separatist insurgency in southern Thailand that has taken as many as 2,000 lives in three years, with almost- daily bombings, drive-by shootings, arson and beheadings.
It is a conflict the government admits it is losing. A harsh crackdown and martial law in recent years seem only to have fueled the insurgency, generating fear and anger and undermining moderate Muslim voices.
A new policy of conciliation pursued by Thailand’s junta since it took power in a coup five months ago has been met by increased violence, including a barrage of 28 coordinated bombings in the south that killed or injured about 60 people a week ago.
«The momentum of violence is now beyond the control of government policy,» said Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a political scientist at Prince of Songkhla University here.
«The separatists can pick and choose the time and place of the violence without any effective resistance,» he said. «They have the upper hand.»
Forsøket på å skape krig mellom folkegruppene minner om taktikken jihadistene bruker i Irak. Buddhister er tradisjonelt fredelige mennesker. At munker hakkes til døde er noe helt uten sidestykke.
The insurgents seem to be taking their war to a new stage, pitting local Buddhists against Muslims by attacking symbols of Buddhism — Thailand’s dominant faith — with flamboyant brutality.
The two religions had coexisted through the years, although often in separate villages. Observers say this mutual tolerance is breaking down and there are fears of a sectarian conflict that could flare out of control.
«Buddhist monks have been hacked to death, clubbed to death, bombed and burned to death,» said Sunai Phasuk, a political analyst with the Human Rights Watch monitoring group. «This has never happened before. This is a new aspect of violence in the south.»
Some remote areas in the south have become, in effect, no-go zones for the police or military, according to Francesca Lawe-Davies, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.
«It appears in the last year or so that insurgent groups are actually starting to control territory in a more conventional sense,» she said.
Det som skjer i sør er i realiteten en form for etnisk rensing: buddhister har måttet rømme landsbyer.
Some Buddhist and Muslim villages have begun sealing themselves off from one another. People say that old friendships and patterns of cooperation are being undermined by mistrust.
In a report published last month, Zachary Abuza, the author of «Militant Islam in Southeast Asia,» said that entire Buddhist communities have fled in a «de facto ethnic cleansing.»
«The social fabric of the south has been irreparably damaged,» he said.
Opprørerne forsøker å skille folkegruppene, og angriper derfor muslimer som har med det buddhistiske samfunnet å gjøre: de vil skille skoleelevene og skremme muslimer fra å arbeide for regjeringen og lokale myndigheter.
In an effort to weaken central control, the insurgents also target Muslims who cooperate with the government. About half the victims in the conflict have been Muslim. These include not only village chiefs and suspected collaborators, but those who work in government offices, government-funded schools or even critical economic sectors like rubber tapping.
1,3 millioner muslimer med malysisk bakgrunn utgjør flertallet i tre provinser i sør: Yala, Narathiwat og Pattani. For hundre år siden ble de innlemmet i Thailand. Det har vært klaget på diskriminering, og det har forekommet sporadiske opprør de siste førti år. Men dagens opprør er av en annen karakter. For hvert år blir det stadig mer islamistisk karakter, med terror som våpen. Det stiller det thailandske samfunn overfor store utfordringer:
«What is new about the current conflict is the level and degree of violence, the Islamist agenda of the insurgents, and their unprecedented degree of cooperation and coordination,» Abuza said.
«The level of violence in Thailand’s south has never been higher,» he said. «Nor has it been more brutal.»
He said there had been more than 24 beheadings in the past three years and as many as 60 attempted beheadings.
Human Rights Watch counted more than 6,000 violent incidents over the past three years. It said that more than 60 teachers and 10 students had been killed and 110 schools — the most visible signs of central government authority in many places — had been set ablaze.
Hardt eller mykt – samme resultat
Thailand regjeres av en muslimsk statsminister Surayud Chulanont, som mente forgjengeren Thaksin Shinawatra hadde gått altfor hardt frem. Men han må nå innrømme at den myke linjen ikke har ført frem. Angrepene har istedet tiltatt. Lørdag ble to studenter drept på vei til eksamen:
Kanokkarn Khumvaen, 15, and Sukanda Srichan, 17, were heading to Yala Technical College in Yala province when unidentified assailants ambushed and shot them in neighboring Narathiwat province, said Police Lt. Chavanin Kitichaiwat.
Also on Saturday, a Muslim man was shot and killed as he was riding to work at a rubber plantation in Yala, police said.
Nå mener Surayud at det tar tid før den myke linjen virker. Befolkningen er antagonisert over lang tid og det tar tid å gjenvinne tillit.
Soldatene forsøker å vinne «hearts and minds». Men folk rømmer bare de ser en soldat. De er redd for å stå ved siden av et terrormål. Det samme gjelder offentlige ansatte: terroren virker.
People are afraid now to stand close to a government official or a soldier or police officer, she said, potential targets of bullets or bombs.
«When we are in a restaurant, if we see a soldier or policeman nearby we hurry to leave,» Chidchanok said. «In the shops near the university, if a soldier or policeman comes to buy something, the owner says, ‘Quickly just buy something and leave.'»
Southern Thailand, she said, had become «a kingdom of terror, a kingdom of fear.»
«We really wonder about their identity and how they can be doing this,» she said of the insurgents. «They are destroying their own society. They kill the teachers. They kill the teachers who teach their own children.»
Muslim insurgency stokes fear in southern Thailand
av Seth Mydans