Motion in Malaysian Parliament deploring Thaksin government’s grave diplomatic gaffe and offence accusing Malaysia of providing training grounds for Thai Islamic militants if it cannot refute fiasco that the alleged evidence are in fact photographs of students dressed in military costume after a Sports Day parade and there is no public apology from Thaksin
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Friday): DAP proposes to move a motion in Parliament deploring the Thaksin government for its grave diplomatic gaffe and offence accusing Malaysia of providing training grounds for Thai Islamic militants, separatists and terrorists if it cannot refute the fiasco that the alleged evidence are in fact photographs of students dressed in military costume after a Sports Day parade and there is no public apology from the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
The Thai daily, The Nation, today reported that the photographic evidence that Thai Deputy Interior Minister Sutham Saengprathum claimed showed a Muslim separatist training camp in northern Malaysia was in fact pictures of high-school students dressed in junior military uniforms.
The report, under the headline, “DIPLOMATIC FIASCO: ‘Jungle’ pics from school sports day”, said:
“The photographs that caused a diplomatic row between Malaysia and Thailand and brought bilateral ties to their lowest ebb in years surfaced yesterday in yet another humiliating episode for the Thaksin government.
“The pictures that Deputy Interior Minister Sutham Saengprathum had claimed showed Thai Muslim separatists training in northern Malaysia were in fact photographs of students dressed in military costume after a Sports Day parade in Pattani’s Thung Yang Daeng district.
“The first photo to appear on page one of Thai Rath newspaper showed a group of Thai Muslim students dressed in junior military uniform wearing a chequered scarf known in Arabic as a keffiyeh.
“The students were standing in a relatively open area with a few rubber trees in the background, not a dense forest as Sutham had earlier claimed.
“One student standing in the middle was holding what appeared to be a toy gun. Thai Rath reported an unnamed official source had named the toy-gun holder as Anwar Kazor, a prime suspect in the killing of Pattani provincial judge Rapin Ruankeow in September.
“The rest looked stalwart, trying to put on their best face for what appeared to be a class picture of school buddies taken four years ago.
“Mahkohli Je-wae, the principal of Islam Nithiwit School, confirmed yesterday that the photo was indeed taken at his school by students participating in a parade marking the school’s Sports Day. They were told to dress up in costumes, so some put on junior military outfits known as ror dor uniforms, he said.”
It has been reported that more pictures have surfaced showing students, supposedly Muslim insurgents, who were in fact students taking part in a school parade.
Yesterday, I said in a media statement that the Malaysian Parliament wants to see the photographic evidence of Thai Islamic militants training grounds in Malaysia alleged by the Thaksin government and that such photographs should be produced before the special Parliament sitting fixed for January 17 and 18, 2005 to debate and pass amendments to the Federal Constitution.
If the latest Thai press reports are true, that the alleged photographs were in fact pictures of high-school students dressed in junior military uniforms, then Thaksin and his government had committed an egregrious error compounded by an unnecessarily truculent and un-ASEAN attitude and the gross offence against neighbouring ASEAN nations – which a Thai newspaper has rightly described as “the classic tactic of blaming neighbours for its failure to contain the violence in the deep South”. What is worse, Thaksin had caused Thailand’s international stocks and reputation to take an unprecedented nose-dive, and may have damaged beyond repair the Thai campaign for a Thai to become the next United Nations Secretary-General!
A recent research study by the Prince of Songkla University revealed that the great bulk of violence in the deep South in Thailand over the past decade had taken place since Thaksin assumed power in 2001.
A total of 1,975 violent incidents were recorded between 1993 and the end of November this year. Of these, 79 per cent occurred from 2001 onwards in the three southern-most provinces of Yala, Patani and Narathiwat after Thaksin became Prime Minister. In the first 11 months of this year, 1,253 violent incidents were recorded, which was 63 per cent of the total over the period of almost 11 years. This year’s number was 19 times higher than the average of 66 such incidents taking place each year between 1993-2003.
This year’s record showed that as of November 10, at least 573 people had been killed in violent incidents and another 524 people had been injured, according to the Thai research study.
The statistics for violent incidents, deaths and injuries would have climbed up further by the end of this year, with the deep South in Thailand racked in daily violence and bloodshed, despite the strange and futile Thaksin notion early this month to mobilize 50 Thai Air Force planes to “bomb” the largely Muslim southern provinces with 100 million paper birds as a symbol of peace.
Malaysia has a vested interest in developments in South Thailand, as the continuing unrest, violence and bloodshed has overspilling effect on the peace and security of Malaysia, which is why the Thai Government should respond positively to the friendly Malaysian offer of assistance to restore peace, stability and security in the volatile region bordering the two countries before it is sucked into a vortex of international Islamic terrorism.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman