Sunday, August 19, 2007

Referendum Day in Thai South

One thing that hyper-Islamic nutburgers hate is voting. But at the same time they love the target rich environment that polling stations bring.

Thai Muslim south braces for referendum violence

Police and troops in Thailand’s rebellious Muslim south have beefed-up security ahead of today’s constitutional referendum, fearing rebels will sabotage the polls in retaliation for the arrests of dozens of Muslim suspects.

The number of police guarding polling stations has been increased and security forces have been reassigned to escort election officials in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces, where more than 2,500 people have been killed in near-daily violence since 2004.

“They may be planning attacks on Muslim voters on the referendum day and blaming them on the government forces,” said Army spokesman Atthadej Mathanom.
A southern police general said 16,000 officers would be deployed today to keep peace in the predominantly Malay-speaking region, but Attadej declined to disclose the number of troops.

In recent weeks, security forces have launched raids almost daily on suspected insurgent hideouts in villages and towns. At one point, close to 400 people were held without charge, although the army said around half of those had since been released.

Despite the threat of violence, Election Commission officials expected voter turnout in the far south to reach 60%, higher than in the capital, but lower than in some other regions.

But local politicians said the figure was too optimistic as many Muslims, who account for 80% of the local population, could not speak or read Thai and could not understand the 200-page charter, copies of which have been handed out to every household.

Despite attempts by election officials to get Muslim clerics to translate highlights of the charter into the Malay dialect, many people believed it will have little impact on their lives.

“How can they believe that this new charter will better protect their rights and liberty while the region is still under martial law,” said Somboon Ahmad Bualuang, mayor of Puyud sub-district in Pattani province.

The charter is designed to prevent the re-emergence of a strong, single-party government like that of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted a prime minister in a bloodless coup last year.

Analysts say the new charter would mean a return to the constantly collapsing coalitions of the early 1990s.

But that message may not be effectively communicated to voters in the Muslim south.
“I don’t know anything about the constitution. All I know is how to make ends meet,” said Aesoh Puteh, 30, who sells roasted chicken in a market in Yala. “I thought the referendum was for those in Bangkok only.” – Reuters


  1. Hi Bill, I just found your blog via the fine article you published on PJM. A good attempt to straighten out the atrocious MSM reporting on Thailand.

    I'm in Bangkok too (blogging since 2004), and I'll be adding 20 Alpha 4 to the blogroll. (Agam's Gecko) I would've emailed you but I couldn't see an address. Please get in touch if you're so inclined. (agam[dot]tapak[at]gmail[dot]com)

  2. Cheers Mate, I've added you and your Gecko to my Blogroll. Together we can fight the Bumheads!