Time to Define Terror

On 17 February 2012, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa offered two observations, both ill-founded, unfounded and confounded. Despite an international body stating Thailand was a great place to launder money, the general says “Ain’t so!” As well, despite Sukumvit Soi 71 being littered with bomb debris and shadows of cleaned-away blood, he also insists that there is no concrete evidence that the Valentine’s Day Iranian bomber attacks were acts of terror.

In a country where unarmed prisoners, handcuffed and out of sight, are shot in the head and no one knows what happened, in a country where a Muslim human rights lawyer can be kidnapped and his body disposed of in the best Jimmy Hoffa style, in a country where a sixty one year-old grandfather is sent to prison for two decades because he was thought to have sent four SMS to a government official, in a country where Burmese prisoners are found dead having hanged themselves with their own shoestrings…we hardly need ask whether Thai denials of anything mean…well, anything.

But let’s stick to terrorism at the moment, since it’s being claimed and denied simultaneously not only by the two main combatants in this latest Bangkok saga – Iran and Israel – that the other did it. For Thailand’s part, it is pulling out all the stops to prevent tourism revenue from fading, even is slightly. To make sure it is tackling the issue of terrorism head-on, as if being armed with explosives, being sent to Bangkok to kill Israeli diplomats and then throwing explosives at a taxi driver and policeman are not acts of terror.

Thailand’s has its own home-grown terrorism, and it’s not from the southern region where Muslim communities are in the majority. Thailand’s native terror is Article 112 of the Criminal Code that allows Thais and foreigners alike to be held in remand without charge for 84 days while police drum up charges that prosecutors feel comfortable with.

The following paragraph, extracted from the Manager Online on 16 Feb, reflects a very important basis of Thailand’s foreign policy and its overall rationale in dealing with friends and foes alike. It specifically opens with notice of the recent meeting between the US ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenny and Thailand’s military Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn.

The wider issue, however, over and above desire for distance, is just how far the country’s past sins, its present weaknesses and strengths, and its future national character will go to keep the country at the distance it has always assumed would be possible to keep. “Hands off us!” because we are “hands off you” is not always a reciprocal understanding. The presence of almost a half dozen terrorists in Bangkok, fumbled though they did, should underscore to Thai authorities that the battle is global and there is no escaping involvement. So far the diplomacy game has been played rather skillfully. Whether it remains possible to maintain the disenfranchisement will reveal itself as time goes on.

Yet this personal visit by the US ambassador reveals efforts by the United States to join in investigation of the incident…[over] which we have to wait and see just what attitude the Thai government is on this. Even though we are hardly confident in the working skills of the police, we still don’t want the US and any other country to crowd in. And importantly, we don’t want to bring in enemies, to allow Thailand in any way whatsoever to be subject to superpower [influence] aligning it in a battleground over terrorism in this region.