This post is the latest in a series from our Bangkok correspondent, H. Numan.
From The Bangkok Post:
Southern War Room
Officials charged with battling the insurgency in the deep South said on Saturday they intend to strengthen the paramilitary forces in the region to face an upsurge of violence by the militants.
A “war room” will be established and the number of defence volunteers at each village — paramilitary forces commonly known as rangers — will be increased, explained Pranai Suwannarat, director of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC)
The latest “adjustment” in tactics follows several brutal attacks on military patrols this past week, including an ambush in which Islamic militants bombed an army Humvee, then killed and tried to behead all eight soldiers in the vehicle. [emphasis added]
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Speaking to journalists after conferences involving more than 50 senior officials including the Narathiwat province governor, Mr Pranai said the discussions centered on establishing the war room to better coordinate the fight against separatists.
The number of village peacekeepers will be increased by five at each village and defence volunteers will patrol all 110 villages in the province, said Mr Pranai.
At least 25 suspected rebels and helpers have been rounded up and detained in the past three days, and hundreds of others were arrested in the last half of 2007.
Mr Pranai said the authorities would also have to speed up their investigations of suspect informers and sympathisers who might be passing information on to the separatists.
He said immediate arrests must be made of suspects involved in a major espionage ring that has been found inside government military and police units, and known to have leaked information to the violent gangs seeking to terrorise and dominate the deep South.
Ten Muslim policemen and soldiers were arrested a week ago for allegedly supplying intelligence to the shadowy underground fighting groups.
Another group of six captured militants guerrillas also embarrassed the government when they escaped from a police lockup in the province and disappeared with alarming ease.
Please note that line: “..and tried to behead all eight soldiers in the vehicle”. Terror is far more terrifying if you can make it more visual. Eight dead soldiers isn’t exactly new there. Eight soldiers without their heads isn’t new either, but far more impressive. Trust my words: you do not want to see the photos. You really don’t.
One of the reasons the insurgency has lasted this long is the semi-religious character of it. The south is mainly Muslim. All non-Muslims are relatively recent Thai or Chinese migrants. Relatively, as many had lived there already for generations. But Muslims everywhere live in their own private little world. “We, the good guys” against “them, the infidels”. Don’t forget that the house of peace (Islam, what else) and the house of war (the rest of the world) principle is valid for every Muslim. It is being practiced, too. Hence the easy escape.
This was Bangkok reporting,