Special to The Nation
Reaching out to foreign media may have come out of a desire to remind the world that
Nevertheless, it was a step in a more conventional direction - one that could force the Thai government to rethink its own information strategy, according to a Thai government official working on the conflict in the southernmost provinces.
What was interesting, noted the Thai official and Artef Sohko, a youth activist and member of a political action group, the Academy of Patani Raya for Peace and Development (Lempar), was that the
For years, much of the information about the conflict in Thailand's southernmost provinces had been provided by the state, making any reporting lopsided.
But the Thai government will no longer enjoy a monopoly on the flow of information should groups like theBRN, which controls a vast majority of the insurgents on the ground, begin to seriously exercise their communication strategy.
Whether this was a one-time thing remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it was enough to get Thais to seriously think about what the future holds in the realm of communication strategy.
Besides the recent interview with Davis,
As expected, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan rejected the demand that foreign governments observe the peace talks.
Bangkok has never liked the idea of foreign mediation for fear of "internationalising" the conflict, which they feel would give too much legitimacy to the separatists.
Earlier last month, just 10 days after the August 27 launch of MARA Patani in Kuala Lumpur, the DPP reminded the world about their feeling about the Thai state through a statement read out by Abdulkarim Khalid, a member of the movement's youth wing who's also part of the
In the video statement, he
criticised the Thai state for
being insincere and lacking
legitimacy in Malays' historical homeland, which is today's
southern border provinces.
It was hard to dismiss Abdulkarim's statement as irrelevant because he was not an unknown entity. The man was at the negotiating table at the previous round of talks launched by the Yingluck government in February 2013.
Abdulkarim was sent to the talks by the DPP under a very strict mandate. He could not negotiate - as theBRN's DPP did not officially endorse the Yingluck initiative - but would observe and report back to the top leaders.
That initiative ended in late 2013 when the designated "BRN
Seven months after the putsch, the junta decided to pick up where the Yingluck team had left off, but with conditions. Prime Minister
Thai officials said "the period of peace", or ceasefire, was to demonstrate that MARA Patani members had adequate command-and-control over the militants on the ground.
Bangkok did not get their "period of peace" but the separatists did form the MARA Patani, a platform for their common strategy and for dealing with the Thais collectively.
MARA Patani was a sideshow, or Track 1.5, to the Yingluck official Track 1 initiative that has Malaysia as designated facilitator.
Today, with Hasan and Abdulkarim abandoning the initiative, the sideshow was elevated to a formal Track 1. But being on Track 1 does not guarantee MARA Patani members formal or meaningful recognition as Bangkok does not want to give away too much too soon to the Patani Malay groups.
But if MARA Patani could secure a buy-in from the DPP, Bangkok just might take them more seriously and grant them the recognition they want, security officials said.
For the time being, MARA Patani, Thailand's dialogue panel (negotiators) and the Malaysian facilitators are pinning their hopes on a small group of young
Two of these individuals - Sukree Hari and Ahmad Chuwo - were paraded to the press in Kuala Lumpur with other MARA Patani representatives. They still called themselves "BRN" but combatants on the ground said, "Who cares?" What matters, in today's context, is who has command-and-control on the ground.
The Thai negotiators, MARA Patani and Kuala Lumpur were hoping that these former teachers from Thamvithya Mulnithi School in Yala could bridge the gap between them and the
But the recently released four-page statement, along with Abdulkarim's statement on YouTube, not to mention the interview with Davis, was
Thai officials have quietly acknowledged that parading the pair to the media in late August along with the MARA Patani may have been a premature move.
Perhaps all sides should have waited until they are certain that these former teachers have secured the needed endorsement from the