Southeast Asia Theater
Another forgotten war is heating up: the Islamic separatist insurgency in southern Thailand. Thousands of Buddhists are fleeing the region, and teachers seem to be especially targeted for assassination, according to this chilling account from Qatar's Gulf Times, July 6:
Thousands of Buddhists flee Thailand's south
BANGKOK — Thousands of Buddhist teachers and residents are fleeing Thailand’s Muslim south as 19 months of anti-government violence shows no sign of slackening, officials said yesterday.
This from the BBC, June 24. We know that the Indonesian regime (which the White House is seeking to reward with renewed military ties) is harshly intolerant of marijuana-smokers as well as ethnic separatists. We were hoping the separatists of Aceh were more progressive. This report appears to indicate that these hopes may be misplaced—yet it notes at the end that the armed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) opposes the sharia measure. Is Jakarta trying to play conservative Muslims against the GAM? Can any of our readers provide more information on the politics of sharia law in Aceh?
Even as the US moves to restore military ties with Indonesia, harsh repression continues in areas of the archipelago where indigenous peoples are fighting for sovereignty. This from Survival International, June 15:
INDONESIA: Fifteen years in prison for flying a flag
Two Papuan activists, Filep Karma and Yusuk Pakage, have been sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison respectively for raising the Papuan flag on 'Papuan independence day', December 1st, 2004. For this ‘crime' they were charged with 'treason against the state'.
Burma's military continues to kill, rape and conscript impoverished ethnic Karen villagers as it drives thousands from their homes in its campaign against insurgents, Human Rights Watch said in a new statement this month. The New York-based group urged the junta to allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to villagers who have been forced to flee by troops pursuing rebels through the jungles of eastern Karen State, which borders Thailand.
More attacks are reported in Thailand as the country braces for the first anniversary of the April 28, 2004 massacre of 32 Islamic militants by security forces at Krue Se mosque in the restive south of the country. An all-too-typical dialectic of state-versus-insurgent terror is at play here. The massacre came just weeks after the still-unexplained disappearance of Somchai Neelapaichit, a human rights worker who had been reporting on abuses in the region. Local Muslims are also outraged over the death of 85 peaceful prostesters in custody last October—most suffocated to death after their arrest at the village of Tak Bai. Security has been beefed up as the Krue Se anniversary nears. Over the past three days, bomb and grenade attacks on Hat Yai airport, a police station and hotel have left two dead and scores injured. Ten days earlier, an army commander, a Buddhist abbot and his police escort were injured in bomb blasts in Yala province. Four Buddhist monks were killed in the region last year, and attacks on local Buddhists continue. (UK Guardian, April 5)
The Indonesian army and police have killed three people, burned down houses, killed pigs and destroyed crops, in the latest in a series of attacks against tribal villages in the Papuan highlands. One of those killed was a child. The Indonesian army frequently uses the pretext of searching for members of the Free Papua separatist movement to attack and intimidate the highland people. This latest assault focused on a village called Nggweyage. Besides the child, the village leader and an elder were also killed. Survival International has protested to the Indonesian government at this latest atrocity. (Survival International, March 30)
Twenty-two imprisoned militants of the Abu Sayyaf group and at least 17 others are dead in the Philippines, 24 hours after they launched a rebellion at Camp Bagong Diwa maximum security prison at in Taguig City. The dead are said to include three top Abu Sayyaf leaders, Alhamser Limbong (alias Kumander Kosovo); Ghalib Andang (Kumander Robot); and Nadjmi Sabdula (Kumander Global). Authorities reporteldy gave the militants a non-extendable 15-minute deadline to lay down their weapons and surrender before launching the assualt.
In Nam Khem, a poor coastal village in Thailand, when displaced survivors returned to the ruins to search for the remains of their loved ones and rebuild their homes, they found the area had been sealed off my armed men. The thugs told them the land now belonged to the "Big Boss," a nameless real estate speculator who had been battling for control of the land in the courts for years, hoping to cash in on the local boom in tourist resorts.