Thailand has a separatist problem. A Muslim separatist problem, to be more specific, in three southern provinces. As straitstimes.com reports, “Violence in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south has left thousands dead – the majority civilians – since 2004 across the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, which were annexed more than a century ago by Thailand. In response to a recent slew of shootings and bomb attacks on civilian “soft” targets, Thailand has vowed to protect locals while it seeks a firm date for a fresh round of peace talks with the publicity-shy but ruthless rebels.” But the strategy they’ve chosen is an unusual one for a government that took power in a military coup . . .
Malay Muslims have fought for decades for independence from the Buddhist north. From channelnewsasia:
The main group is the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), which has often resorted to gun attacks, arson and car bombings. Their violent tactics are all part of their self-proclaimed campaign to remove symbols of the Thai state, and to drive out the Thai Buddhist population.
So to uphold the new prime minister’s promise to bring both sides to the negotiating table, he’s trying to create a balance of power. To do that…
Some 2,700 Heckler & Koch HK33 assault rifles have been distributed over the past two months to volunteers in the region, according to a spokesman for the Internal Operations Security Command (ISOC).
Yes, an authoritarian government is putting thousands of rifles in the hands of volunteers who have come under attack, part of an insurgency that has killed more than 6000 people in the last decade. As one internal security official put it,
“They need weapons for self-defence… they can’t fight with just wooden sticks,” ISOC spokesman Colonel Banphot Phunphien told AFP.
No, no they can’t. Hence the “assault rifles.”
“They are for security volunteers… who are stationed at provincial halls, district offices. They will also protect governors and district chiefs,” (Col. Phunphien) said, adding the majority of the weapons have gone to local Muslim villagers.
All of which has caused pearls to be clutched and hands to be wrung among Thailand’s peace activist community, who have apparently learned to appropriate talking points from America’s disarmament community. As bbc.com relates,
Guns have been distributed to Muslim and Buddhist villagers before this, but some fell into the hands of the insurgents themselves or resulted in incidents where volunteers opened fire on unarmed civilians.
Right(s) groups have condemned the distribution of guns saying it would only increase violence in the region.
Guns will only make things worse! These people can’t be trusted to use them safely! The guns will only be taken away and used against them!