Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pattani autonomy in discussion again

The idea of solving the problem with the insurgency in three southern-most Muslim-dominated provinces by giving the area some kind of autonomy has made it into the main news again this week, after opposition leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh publicly proposed this approach.
Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is proposing the establishment of a special administrative area comprising the three troubled provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
The former prime minister said he would put forward the idea at meetings with local leaders during his trip to the far South, which begins tomorrow.
[...]
He was proposing the three provinces form a self-administration area. As in other special administrative areas, legislation would have to be passed to enable it, he said.
Bangkok Post, November 2 2009, Chavalit pushing special zone for South

When this idea was first picked up by a leading politician in January 2008, it was quickly denied. Interestingly in June this year prime Minister Abhisit himself proposed some kind of autonomy without going into any details, but now the idea was brought up by the opposition he has to deny it.

However as usual the articles around this issue fail to deliver to tell what is actualy meant by this "autonomy", which responsibilities of the central administration should be transferred to the newly created body. It somehow seems that since some of the articles call about a "Pattani city" it means something modeled after the central administrative zone Bangkok, where the elected administration has many of the responsibilities otherwise in the hands of the centrally appointed provincial administration. A small quote from another article indicates that Chavalit thinks about more decentralization
On Tuesday, Gen Chavalit defended his "Pattani City" model, saying that all he meant was a form of local government not an independent Pattani state, as it was being interpreted by the government. (Bangkok Post, November 4)
I don't know whether the decentralization of the second half of the 1990s with the creation of the TAO, new tasks for the PAO, upgrade of the sanitary districts to municipalities did fulfill the expectations, but continuing the decentralization at province level only in the deep south does not make sense for me, why shouldn't the other parts of the country not deserve elected province governors or a really powerful provincial parliament instead of the weak PAO.

The central point of the very recommended book Tearing apart the land : Islam and legitimacy in Southern Thailand by Duncan McCargo is that the insurgency is mostly caused by a lack of legitimacy of the administration, so a decentralization may help. But why the previous steps of decentralization did not prevent the violence to erupt after many years of relative peace.

10 comments:

Display Name said...

Truly weird! Autonomy is most certainly the way to go. But it is unlikely to happen any time soon, because the elite really can't stand the thought of people figuring stuff out for themselves. (Then what would they do for a living!?) Particularly since if you give it to one region, they will all want it.

How ironic that such radical proposals always come from Thailand's biggest scamps. Anyone with the slightest inkling of Thai politics knows that General Chavalit is hardly an honest man. His life has been full of intrigue. And most of that revolved around gaining more power, influence and wealth for himself. And it's not even as if most of his cunning schemes have really been at all successful. He was a dreadful PM.

So all in all, this man can never be trusted.

John Francis Lee said...

...why shouldn't the other parts of the country not deserve elected province governors or a really powerful provincial parliament instead of the weak PAO...

That's certainly the question. The answer is that Bangkok's financial relationship to Thailand is like Singapore's financial relationship to Malaysia and Indonesia, but the Bangkok "elite" have never made the transition from hands-on to purely financial exploitation, and are now once again barricading fortress Bangkok to resist the Thais' demands for more control of their own country.

These "defences" will fail and fall at one point. Don't know if it'll be this time, or next time...

[OTOPH] said...

Of course, JFL, the big question is whether you really want it to "fail" into the arms of the counter elite. You know who I am talking about. The counter elite offers absolutely nothing new. Just the same old corruption and overmeddling interference, in new hands. Right now, there are no viable alternatives. And the likes of Jakraphob aren't even remotely capable of thinking beyond how much someone is going to pay them.

John Francis Lee said...

So stick with the devil you know? Stasis ensures more of the same. Flux allows for alternatives.

[OTOPH] said...

I won't be adhering to any existing local political heroes or anti-heroes any time soon, thanks! They may demonize each other, but I just see them for a bunch of dumb fools who stir up problems way beyond their own abilities to fix anything.

Alternative!? Strange term for a bent cop. Flux!? You mean the turgid ebb and flow of political and big business intrigue in a stagnant millpond full of big fish that have grown way too big. Sounds remarkably like your stasis to me.

If the likes of Chavalit and Thaksin had anything to offer the South, they should have done it long ago. Chavalit's former idea to fix the South revolved around buying off certain local politicians. Thaksin, more of the same. It didn't work, because those same politicians have done absolutely nothing to help their own ordinary constituents with their very real problems. And Thaksin became a raging bull in a china shop when he began to realize that the problem could never be fixed by just throwing money around indiscriminately. He thus demonstrated just what a rank political amateur he really is. Deviousness and flat-out dishonesty doesn't automatically make a good PM or CEO. Indeed, the whole idea of a CEO PM is extremely crass. Business is never the be-all or end-all of any society. We should always expect far more than business acumen in a PM. (And buying lucrative contracts off other government officials is not exactly the mark of a consummate businessman anyway.)

John Francis Lee said...

Well certainly the current cast of professional pols is pretty poor.

But betting on the increasingly authoritarian, so-called "Democrat Party" is not something I would do, if I were a Thai and in a position to change the political structure of my country.

[OTOPH] said...

Well we agree on that. Abyssmal, in fact! I'm not a betting man, and the Dems have made a complete hash of dealing with a man who has been begging to be convicted for decades.

John Francis Lee said...

Does that mean you're a PAD supporter?

[OTOPH] said...

You don't have to be a PAD supporter to despise Thaksin. Truth be told, I also despise PAD anyway. Thae fact that Sonthi and Thaksin were once friends and business buddies, has not escaped me. The way I see things, is that the elite currently has two broad factions who are battling it out for power at the time of succession. The assumption that no one else matters is what gets me about Thai politics. The assumption that the rest of us are just here to gratify their utterly selfish needs. There is no way I would support either set of fascists, criminals and parasites.

[OTOPH] said...

You don't have to be a PAD supporter to despise Thaksin. Truth be told, I also despise PAD anyway. The fact that Sonthi and Thaksin were once friends and business buddies, has not escaped me. The way I see things, is that the elite currently has two broad factions who are battling it out for power at the time of succession. The assumption that no one else matters is what gets me about Thai politics. The assumption that the rest of us are just here to gratify their utterly selfish needs. There is no way I would support either set of fascists, criminals and parasites.