Monday, March 31, 2008

What China should learn from Thailand

A Jotman reader commented on this blog:
The Western media claims to be fighting for human rights in China. Assuming it sees human beings in China, then listen to what they really want! Attacking their government which is trying to restore order after a deadly riot is obviously not what they want. So, whose rights are you fighting for?*
How is order being restored in Tibet and Southwestern China? That is the question. That is something not mainly Westerners, but especially Chinese people should be concerned about. A few years ago in Thailand, the Thai governments' efforts to "restore order" in the South resulted in the preventable asphyxiation of 70 Muslims (the 'Tak Bai incident').** Now Thailand has a raging insurgency on its hands in the Southern Provinces. And the Thais don't seem to know what to do about it.

One problem facing Thailand is that Muslims in the South of Thailand appear to have no widely respected leader who the Thai government could negotiate with. That is, even supposing Thailand got really serious about solving the Southern Thailand crisis, it still has no Dalai Lama figure who can claim to speak for the members of its most unhappy ethnic minority. China, on the other hand, is fortunate. In the personage of the Dalai Lama, China knows an influential moderate it could negotiate with.

Yet, the Dalai Lama is getting quite old, and so time for a peaceful resolution to Tibet situation may be running out for Beijing. And as the Thais are learning, once an insurgency begins -- like a wildfire -- it may be unstoppable. Future historians are unlikely to favorably judge the present leadership of China should they continue to snub the Dalai Lama. They overlook a golden opportunity to preserve the peace at China's peril.
* I have edited the comment for clarity.
** At Tak Bai "those arrested were thrown by soldiers into trucks to be taken to an army camp in the next province of Pattani. The prisoners were stacked five or six deep in the trucks, and by the time the trucks reached their destination three hours later, many had suffocated to death." (Source: Wiki)

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