Thailand 'Losing Control' of South as Malaysia Relations Sour

By Mark Mayne | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

( - The Thai state is on the verge of losing control of the troubled Southern provinces, according to a new report just published on the Oct. 25 anniversary of a massacre at Tak Bai, where 85 died.

The damning report from the Thai National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) states that there are ominous indications of the state going into ''administrative bankruptcy'' -- when the government cannot assure the safety of the people.

The report noted the worsening problem deep in the South, where state control was said to be ebbing away.

''The trend that became the main concern has to do not only with the weakening ability of the state to protect its own citizens but also the falling apart of local communities,'' the NRC report stated.

Bloodshed at Tak Bai was a turning point, according to the report. Hundreds of protesters, angered by what they saw as unfair local arrests, converged outside the police station to demand justice on Oct 25 last year.

The following clash with security forces left six protesters dead and another died in a hospital. Seventy-eight others suffocated during transportation to a nearby town for questioning.

The government could not evade responsibility for the excessive force blamed for the steep death toll, according to the NRC.

''The Muslim Thais are under the impression the state is biased against them and not remorseful for the deaths of the protesters,'' the report stated.

The families of those who died in the massacre have taken the embattled government to court for damages totaling 103 million baht [$2.5 million].

Pirapong Rabingkow, a member of a Law Society team providing legal help to victims' relatives, said: ''It's obvious that state authorities were at fault. The government must take responsibility and compensate the victims' families.''

Widows of the tragedy said they would never forgive the soldiers who they believe caused their husbands' deaths. ''I will never forgive them [the soldiers]. My husband died while in their hands. My 10 children have lost their father and our family is in trouble. I will never forget what happened,'' 42-year-old Waesiti Waedolo told reporters.

The deteriorating situation is also beginning to strain the relations between the Thai government and neighboring Malaysia.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Seri Najib Razak recently issued a stern reprimand after some of the nation's troops manning security posts detected clandestine activities on the Thai side of the border.

"I do believe that the Thai authorities understand they cannot simply do as they wish without being detected. We do not want any incident that can damage Malaysian and Thai relations," Razak said.

"Even though we have issues such as the 131 Thais who recently sought shelter here, that does not affect our co-operation with Thailand on other matters," he added. "Bilateral relations with Thailand are currently good, but we are trying to find ways to solve such issues [of disagreement]."

The Thai government has announced that it ordered 22,000 U.S.-made M16 assault rifles at a cost of around $16 million. A spokesman said the weapons would be issued to new security units being created to tackle the rising unrest in the south.

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