While Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha called for all 9,000 insurgents and their supporters in the South to be brought to justice (not the same justice that he applies to security forces committing extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and, if rumours are true, a whole raft of run-of-the-mill crimes like drug-dealing, smuggling, and gun-running), his deputy, Gen Dapong Rattanasuwan, was expressing the real fears that keep the military top brass awake in their beds at night.
‘We have not lost our land yet,’ the general is quoted as saying, ‘but if we’re complacent and let the UN intervene and hold a referendum, then we’re finished.’
Let us leave aside for the moment any analysis of who this ‘our’ might refer to, and simply note that similar views are expressed in the top secret ‘Order of Battle’. Produced in limited, numbered copies by Military Intelligence (stop laughing at the back!), this document’s contents have been discussed top secretly on the Bangkok Post op-ed page.
An anonymous source claims that Gen Prayuth avoids talking about ‘separatists’ because ‘it will give an opening for international terrorists to step in’. And who would be these terrorists who need a slip of the tongue before they dare intervene?
The source continues: ‘He [Gen Prayuth] was concerned about other countries including the UN interfering.’ If violence in the region escalated beyond government control, reasons the military (who therefore must think the current violence is under control), then ‘key sympathisers’ would raise the issue with the UN, inviting them to intervene as part of a plan to separate the South from Thailand.
I trust that we are all shocked that the dastardly UN, wielding the referendum as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, is plotting to dismember the kingdom, as well as any other country with a separatist movement.
Over to the Planning and Operations room of the UN’s Separatist Support Division, Referendum Section. A new Deputy Assistant Under-Secretary is being briefed on current operations.
‘So what separatist movements is the UN SS supporting at the moment?’
‘I beg your pardon, sir. I’m not sure I understand your question.’
‘I thought it was fairly straightforward. In which countries is there a separatist movement that the UN is supporting?’
‘No, sir. We couldn’t possible support any separatist movement.’
‘What, not even the nice ones?’
‘Well that Western Sahara lot. We’ve been supporting them, no?’
‘Well, the UN has been involved in humanitarian assistance for the Sahrawis in their status as a non-self-governing territory, but we certainly haven’t been involved with the Polisario Front or any separatist movement.’
‘Because it’s against the UN Charter, sir. Point 7, Article 2 states “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.” Our hands are tied, Mr Deputy Assistant Under-Secretary.’
‘So what are we here for?’
‘Well, if a member state were to invite the UN to conduct a referendum with a view to independence, then we are the agency who will organize it.’
‘So we have to wait until we are invited? By the country that stands to lose territory if the referendum passes?’
‘That is correct, sir.’
‘Does this ever happen?’
‘Well, normally no. Most independence referenda are carried out without our involvement. But there was East Timor in 1999. But that was territory gained by war and should never have been part of Indonesia in the first place. And we were invited to observe the South Sudan independence referendum last year.’
‘Well, that’s good. They both became members of the UN.’
‘Well, that doesn’t always follow. There was the Act of Free Choice in Papua in 1969.’
‘What happened there?’
‘Well, Indonesia invited the UN to see if thePapuans wanted to be part of Indonesia or not. They didn’t bother with a vote; they just lined up a thousand or so representatives, put a gun to their backs and asked if they wanted to be Indonesian. They said yes.’
‘So let me get this straight. If some would-be country wants to become independent, we can’t do anything?’
‘Unless invited. So until the UK government invites us, we can’t talk to the Cornish National Liberation Army about independence for Cornwall. Or the Marxist–Leninist Communist Organisation of Réunion, unless the French OK it.’
‘France? The UK? They have separatist movements?’
‘Dozens of them. France has the Breton Revolutionary Army, the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica, the Savoyard League and lord only knows how many Basque outfits running around down there.’
‘Does every country have a separatist movement?’
‘Pretty much. Maybe not the Vatican State.’
‘So any irredentist general with a separatist insurgency on his hands has nothing to fear from the UN?’
‘Certainly not from us. But if I were them, I’d check under the bed before going to sleep.’