February 26, 2007

Appeasement Doesn't Work, Part 37B

Thailand has struggled with a Muslim insurgency for the past several years, with radical Islamists pushing for the upper hand in a nation more associated with Buddhists. After recent political turmoil, the government decided to appease the terrorists and attempt conciliation. Big mistake:

Some are already calling it war, a brutal Muslim separatist insurgency in southern Thailand that has taken as many as 2,000 lives in three years with almost daily bombings, drive-by shootings, arson and beheadings.

It is a conflict the government admits it is losing. A harsh crackdown and martial law in recent years seem only to have fueled the insurgency by generating fear and anger and undermining moderate Muslim voices.

A new policy of conciliation in the past four months has been met by increased violence, including a barrage of 28 coordinated bombings in the south that killed or wounded about 60 people on Feb. 18. ...

Now the insurgents seem to be taking their war to a new stage, pitting local Buddhists against Muslims by attacking symbols of Buddhism with flamboyant brutality.

The two religions had coexisted through the years here, often in separate villages. That mutual tolerance is breaking down now, and there are fears of a sectarian conflict that could flare out of control.

“Buddhist monks, temples, novices,” said Sunai Phasuk, a political analyst with the monitoring group Human Rights Watch. “Buddhist monks have been hacked to death, clubbed to death, bombed and burned to death. This has never happened before. This is a new aspect of violence in the south.”

The effort to find conciliation and bolster the influence of moderate Muslims in Thailand's south has han an unintended effect. It has created tension within the Muslim community to the point where half of all Islamist violence targets Muslims, especially those who cooperate with the government. The Thai effort to find a rational middle has doomed those who qualify.

Thailand's new government, on top after conducting a coup against the democratically-elected but corrupt government that preceded it, decided shortly after taking power to engage with the Islamists. For these kind of results, they could have skipped the coup. While the previous government didn't effectively fight the Islamists, at least they never surrendered to them. All the new government has done is to unleash the terrorists.

We say over and over again that appeasing terrorists only sets up incentives for more terrorism. Thailand merely provides the latest practical example of this axiom. They need to learn to enforce order more effectively, rather than cede control and initiative to lunatic bomb-throwers.


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