Last modified on 18 November 2014, at 00:10

South Thailand insurgency

South Thailand insurgency
Souththailandmap.GIF
Map of the southern provinces of Thailand showing the Malay-Muslim majority areas
Date 4 January 2004[1]ongoing
(10 years, 10 months, 2 weeks and 5 days)
Location Southern Thailand (4 provinces[2]Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat)
Status Ongoing
Belligerents
Emblem of the Ministry of Defence of Thailand.svg Royal Thai Armed Forces
Emblem of Royal Thai Police.png Royal Thai Police
Flag of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional.svg National Revolution Front (BRN)
Flag of Jihad.svg Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK)
Flag of Jihad.svg Pattani Islamic Mujahideen Movement (GMIP)
Flag of Jihad.svg United Mujahideen Front of Pattani (BBMP)
Flag of Jihad.svg Islamic Front for the Liberation of Pattani (BIPP)
Flag of Pattani.svg Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO)
Flag of Jihad.svg Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Thailand.svg Prayuth Chan-ocha Flag of Jihad.svg Wan Kadir Che Wan
Flag of Jihad.svg Abdullah Sungkar
Flag of Pattani.svg Kabir Abdul Rahman
Flag of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional.svg Hassan Taib
Casualties and losses
499 soldiers, 312 policemen, and 181 defense volunteers killed[3] 399 dead[3]
Total casualties: 5,352 killed and 9,965 injured[3]

The South Thailand Insurgency (Thai: ความไม่สงบในชายแดนภาคใต้ของประเทศไทย) is an intractable conflict taking place mainly in Southern Thailand. It originated in the 1960s as an ethnic separatist insurgency in the historical Malay Patani Region, made up of the four southernmost provinces of Thailand, but has become more complex and increasingly violent since 2001.

The former Sultanate of Patani, which comprised the southern Thai provinces of Pattani (Patani), Yala (Jala), Narathiwat (Menara)—also known as the three Southern Border Provinces (SBP)[4]—as well as neighboring parts of Songkhla Province (Singgora), and the northeastern part of Malaysia (Kelantan), was conquered by the Kingdom of Siam in 1785 and, except for Kelantan, the area has been governed by Thailand ever since.

Although low level separatist violence had occurred in the region for decades, the campaign escalated after 2001, with a recrudescence in 2004, occasionally spilling over into other provinces.[5] Outside the region, incidents blamed on southern insurgents have occurred in Bangkok and Phuket.[6]

In July 2005, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra assumed wide-ranging emergency powers to deal with the southern violence, but the insurgency escalated further. On 19 September 2006, a military junta ousted Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup. The junta implemented a major policy shift by replacing Thaksin's earlier approach with a campaign to win over the "hearts and minds" of the insurgents.[7] Despite little progress in curbing the violence, the junta declared that security was improving and that peace would come to the region by 2008.[8] By March 2008, however, the death toll surpassed 3,000.[9]

During the Democrat-led government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya noted a "sense of optimism" and said that he was confident of bringing peace into the region within 2010.[10] But by the end of 2010 insurgency-related violence had increased, confounding the government's optimism.[11] Finally in March 2011, the government conceded that violence was increasing and could not be solved in a few months.[12]

Local leaders have persistently demanded at least a level of autonomy from Thailand for the Patani region and some of the separatist insurgent movements have made a series of demands for peace talks and negotiations. However, these groups have been largely sidelined by the BRN-C, the group currently spearheading the insurgency which sees no reason for negotiations and is against talks with other insurgent groups. The BRN-C has as its immediate aim to make Southern Thailand ungovernable and has largely been successful at it.[13]

Estimates of the strength of the insurgency vary greatly. In 2004 General Panlop Pinmanee claimed that there were only 500 hard-core insurgents. Other estimates say there as many as 15,000 armed insurgents. Around 2004 some Thai analysts believed that foreign Islamic terrorist groups were infiltrating the area, and that foreign funds and arms are being brought in, though again, such claims were balanced by an equally large body of opinion suggesting this remains a distinctly local conflict.

Over 6,000 people have died and more than 10,000 have been injured between 2004 and 2014 in a formerly ethnic separatist insurgency, which has currently been taken over by hard-line Jihadis and pitted them against both the Thai-speaking Buddhist minority and local Muslims who have a moderate approach or who support the Thai government.

History of the insurgencyEdit

Malay Muslim provinces in Southern Thailand with northern Malaysia.
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Historical backgroundEdit

Despite the ethnic affinity of the people of the Patani region with their Malay neighbours to the south, the old Patani Kingdom was led by Sultans who historically preferred to pay tribute to the distant Siamese kings in Bangkok. For many centuries the King of Siam restricted himself to exacting a periodic tribute in the form of Bunga mas, ritual trees with gold leaves and flowers that were a symbolic acknowledgment of Siamese suzerainty, leaving the Patani rulers largely alone.[14]

Forced assimilation and local nationalismEdit

Thai rule over the historical Patani region was confirmed by the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. However, until well into the 20th century, the government in Bangkok had interfered little, relying on local officials for the implementation of policies within the Patani region. This included an exemption in implementing Thai Civil Law, which had allowed Muslims to continue their observance of local laws based on Islam regarding issues on inheritance and family. However, by 1934 Marshall Plaek Phibunsongkhram set in motion of a process of Thaification which had as its objective the cultural assimilation of the Patani people, among other ethnic groups in Thailand.[15]

The National Culture Act was enforced as a result of the Thaification process, promoting the concept of 'Thai-ness' and its centralist aims. Its 'Mandate 3' was directly aimed at the Patani people.[16] By 1944, Thai civil law was enforced throughout the land including the Patani region overriding earlier concessions to local Islamic administrative practices.[17] The school curriculum was revised to that of a Thai-centric one with all lessons in the Thai language, to the detriment of the local Jawi. Traditional Muslim courts that used to handle civil cases were removed and replaced with civil courts run and approved by the central government in Bangkok. This forced assimilation process and the perceived imposition of Thai-Buddhist cultural practices upon their society became an irritant for the harmonious relationship between the ethnic Malay Patani people and the Thai state.[18]

Denied recognition as a culturally separate ethnic minority, Patani leaders reacted against the Thai government policy towards them. Inspired by ideologies such as Nasserism, in the 1950s and 1960s a Patani nationalist movement began to grow, leading to the South Thailand insurgency. At the time of their foundation the goal of the nationalist movements, such as PULO, was secession. The emphasis was laid in pursuing an armed struggle towards an independent state where Patani people could live with dignity without having alien cultural values imposed on them.[19]

21st century: The violence expands and intensifiesEdit

A resurgence in violence by Pattani guerrilla groups began after 2001. While the region's traditional separatist insurgents had flags, leaders, claimed responsibility for the attacks, and made communiques, the new groups attacked more viciously and kept silent. This new development disoriented and confused the Thai authorities, who kept groping in the dark as the identity of the new insurgents in the conflict remained a mystery. Thailand held relatively free elections in February 2005, but no secessionist candidates contested the results in the south. In July the same year, the chairman of the Narathiwat Islamic Committee admitted, "The attacks look like they are well-organized, but we do not know what group of people is behind them." Despite of the shroud of anonymity and the absence of concrete demands, revived groups, such as the GMIP, and particularly the BRN-Coordinate and its alleged armed wing the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), have been identified as leading the new insurgency.[20]

While earlier attacks were typified by drive-by shootings in which patrolling policemen were shot by gunmen on passing motorcycles, after 2001 they escalated to well coordinated attacks on police establishments, with police stations and outposts ambushed by well-armed groups who subsequently flee with stolen arms and ammunition. Current insurgent groups proclaim militant jihadism and are not separatist anymore. Mostly led by Salafist hardliners, they have extreme and transnational religious goals, such as an Islamic Caliphate, to the detriment of a constructive cultural or nationalistic Patani identity. Salafi jihadist groups are hostile to the heritage and practices of traditional Malay Muslims, accusing them of being un-Islamic.[21] They are not concerned about an independent separate nation, instead their immediate aim is to make the Patani region ungovernable.[13]

Thai response to the insurgency has been hampered by clumsy methods, a lack of training in counter-insurgency, a lack of understanding of local culture, and rivalries between the police and the army. Many local policemen are allegedly involved in the local drug trade and other criminal activities, and army commanders from Bangkok treat them with disdain. Often the army responded to the attacks with heavy-handed raids to search Muslim villages, which only resulted in reprisals. Insurgents provoked the inexperienced Thai government into disproportionate responses, generating sympathy among the Muslim populace.

Main incidents after the 2001 insurgency upsurgeEdit

Attacks after 2001 concentrated on installations of the police and military. However, also schools and other symbols of Thai authority in the region have been subject to arson and bombing. Local police officers of all ranks and government officials were the primary targets of seemingly random assassinations, with 19 policemen killed and 50 incidents related to the insurgency in the three provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat by the end of 2001.[22] Other targets of the insurgents have been schoolteachers. The BRN-C, through its 'Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani' paramilitary wing, has been the main group behind the murder of a total of 157 teachers in the Southern Border Provinces between 2004 and 2013.[23] [24]

A massive security presence in the region has failed to stem almost daily violence, usually involving drive-by shootings or small bombings. When the insurgents make a show of strength—generally at least every few months—they have eschewed large-scale attacks, preferring well-coordinated pinprick assaults at many locations while avoiding direct clashes with security forces.[25]

2002Edit

By 2002, 75 insurgency-linked attacks amounted to 50 deaths among police and army personnel.

2003Edit

In 2003, officials counted 119 incidents. The mounting scale and sophistication of the insurgency eventually prompted the government into a recognition that there was a serious issue in the southern provinces.

2004Edit

A further steep escalation of the violence in the Southern Border Provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat is reckoned to have begun on 4 January 2004 with the raiding of a Thai Army depot.[1] On January 4, 2004, unidentified gunmen raided an army ammunition depot in Narathiwat Province in the early morning, and made off with over 400 rifles and other ammunition. All four senior noncomissioned officers guarding the depot were murdered, with then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra famously saying they deserved to die for being careless. This quickly led to large scale violence, with insurgents killing 600 people in a series of bombings and shootings aimed mainly at the police and the military, but also killing many civilians. Some bombings were directed at non-Muslim residents of the area, leading to an exodus that has damaged the regional economy and increased its isolation from the rest of Thailand.

On 7 November 2004, the Defence Minister of Thailand said that there had been more than 700 casualties in south Thailand since the unrest began in January. Many murders involved shooting and decapitation. During 2004 insurgents began to sow fear in attacks where Buddhists were beheaded.[26]

2005Edit

In July 2005, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra assumed wide-ranging emergency powers to deal with the insurgency. However, the insurgency escalated further, with a series of bomb attacks in Songkhla on 3 April 2005, and a major attack being launched on the provincial capital of Yala in July. In response, Thaksin issued a decree giving himself sweeping powers to direct military operations, suspend civil liberties, and censor the press. This action sparked protests from liberal sections of the Thai media and opposition parties. Also in 2005, 131 civilians from the south fled to neighbouring Malaysia seeking refuge from the Thai authorities. Thailand immediately accused the refugees of being insurgents (even though women and children were in the group) and demanded that they be returned, sparking a diplomatic spat. Currently, the people are still in Malaysia.

on 3 April 2005 a series of three bombings in Songkhla kill two people leave 66 injured. The bombings marked the beginning attacks on ethnic Thai Chinese owned businesses whom are considered supporting of Thaksin and against southern Thailand independence as a Muslim state.

On 19 July 2005, the Thai Prime Minister enacted the "emergency powers law" in order to manage the three troubled states. Several human rights organizations and local press expressed their concerns that these new powers might be used to violate civil liberty rights. However, the emergency decree was highly popular, with 72% of Bangkok residents and 86% of people in the three southern provinces supporting it.[27]

On 1 September 2005, three bombs exploded almost simultaneously.[28] Subsequently, as many as 131 Thais crossed into Malaysia to seek refuge.[29] Thailand, suspecting that insurgents may also have fled with the refugees, has asked Malaysia to return these Thai citizens but Malaysia has refused on humanitarian grounds.[30]

2006Edit

A brief lull in the insurgency followed the 19 September 2006 coup that overthrew the government of Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. As Army Commander Sonthi Boonyaratkalin settled into his role as head of the junta, violence resumed. As of September 2006, more than 1,400 people had died in less than three years of southern violence. Most were innocent bystanders, both Buddhists and Muslims.

On 7 January 2006, four suspected militants fatally shoot two border-policemen in the back at a crowded weekend market in Yala Province. (The Nation) Three others were also killed in separate attacks on the same day.[31]

On 15 June 2006, during the 60th anniversary of the accession of Bhumibol Adulyadej to the Thai throne, well coordinated bomb-attacks against at least 40 government and official buildings occurred. Two police officials died and 11 others were injured. Experts say that the bomb attacks were a message to the Thai authorities, rather than an attempt to do real damage, as the bombs were loaded with small amounts of explosives. Had the devices been larger, the casualties and injuries would have been notably greater. The Thai media was late in reporting the incident, only doing so after the BBC and other international news services had announced it.

On 18 June 2006, mass graves of about 300 migrant workers were found in southern Thailand.[32][33]

On 31 August 2006, 22 commercial banks were simultaneously bombed in Yala province, killing a retired military officer and wounding 24 people. Afterwards, Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin announced that he would break with government policy and negotiate with the leaders of the insurgency. However, he noted that "We still don't know who is the real head of the militants we are fighting with."[34] In a press conference the next day, he slammed the government for political interference, and asked that the government "Free the military and let it do the job."[35] By 16 September 2006, the Army admitted that it still wasn't sure who to negotiate with.[36]

In September 2006, Army Commander Sonthi Boonyaratkalin was granted an extraordinary increase in executive powers to combat the unrest.[37]

  • 2006 Hat Yai bombings. On 16 September 2006, six remotely detonated motorcycle bombs simultaneously exploded in the city of Hat Yai, killing four people and wounding more than sixty. A Canadian and a Malaysian were among the dead.[38]
  • On 21 September, 2 villagers were shot in Yala, killing one and wounding another.[39]
  • On 23 September, 4 policemen were injured in a bus stop explosion in Pattani. The bus stop was on a road that would be passed by the motorcade of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn later that afternoon.[40][41]
  • On 25 September, 2 police stations and a military outpost were attacked by 30 gunmen in a coordinated series of attacks in Yala, leaving 2 dead and 1 injured.[42]
  • On 27 September, gunmen killed a grocer and two of his customers in Muang district of Yala and a traveller on the bus from Panare district to Mayo district of Pattani.[43]
  • On 28 September, a teacher protection unit in Sungai Padi district of Narathiwat province was ambushed by a bomb attack, seriously injuring 4 soldiers and killing one.[44]
  • On 4 November, three schools burned to the ground and a person received a gunshot injury.[45]
  • On 9 November, 8 car and motorcycle showrooms were simultaneously bombed in Yala, injuring 13. Almost all gold shops in Muang district closed down for fear of their safety. Commercial banks remained opened but with tightened security.[46]

From January 2004 to October 2006, 1,815 people were killed and 2,729 were wounded in the insurgency.[47] Despite the renewed violence, a post-coup opinion poll found that Southerners had become the happiest people of Thailand.[48]

On 22 November 2006, Wan Kadir Che Wan, leader of Bersatu, one of the southern insurgent groups, told Al Jazeera television that the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network was helping local insurgents stage attacks in Thailand.[49]

On 27 November 27, 2006, after all schools in Pattani announced indefinite shutdown, teachers in Yala and Narathiwat decided to follow suit and close down the schools in the two provinces indefinitely due to fear for safety. The decision in Pattani was made after a series of arson attacks against schools and the brutal and fatal shooting of 2 schoolteachers.[50] In Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces over 1,000 schools were shut down.[51][52]

Despite the closing of the schools protest, on 29 December 2006 two more teachers were shot and burned to death.[53]

2007Edit

Despite conciliatory gestures from the junta, the insurgency continued and intensified. The death toll, 1,400 at the time of the coup, increased to 2,579 by mid-September 2007.[7] From January 2004 to 21 June 2007, the South witnessed 6,850 violent incidents related to the insurgency. At least 2,303 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured in that time, according to Srisompob Jitpiromsri of Prince of Songkhla University's Pattani campus.[54]

Junta chairman Sonthi Boonyaratglin announced that the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) and the Civilian-Police-Military Task Force (CPM) 43 would be revived. Sonthi said the Army-led multi-agency Southern Border Provinces Peace Building Command would be dissolved and its troops would come under the CPM 43, which would operate in parallel with the SBPAC. The SBPAC and CPM 43 had been dissolved in mid-2001 by former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Before that, CPM 43 was under the directive of the SBPAC. Sonthi also made himself head of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). Previously, the ISOC had been headed by the Prime Minister.[55]

The ISOC was given 5.9 billion baht in funding for fiscal year 2007. By May 2007, General Sonthi asked the government for an additional emergency budget of 2 billion baht for ISOC, as the normal budget was running out. The money was under the "secret budget" category, which meant that state officials could spend it without having to account for it to the government.[56]

On 14 January a rubber tapper named Pin Khotchathin was beheaded in Yala. His head was found at a rubber plantation in Tambon Tasae in Yala's Mueang district five metres from his body.[57] It was the 22nd murder to feature attempted beheading since May 2004, although the militants were not always successful in removing their victim's head.[58] A handwritten note was left near Pin's head warning of further bloodshed to avenge what the attackers, calling themselves Pattani Warriors, claimed was a case of authorities killing separatist members.

Facing rising violence, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont accused Muslim junta chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin of failing to do enough to curb the insurgency.[59]

On 18 February a series of bombings and arson attacks began in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani, and Songkhla provinces. 6 people were killed and over 50 were injured.[60]

Violence escalated though in the months following the implementation of the junta's "hearts and minds" campaign. The monthly death toll increased by 30% in the 5 months after the coup compared to the 5 months before the coup.[61] Insurgents targeted Princess Sirindhorn by placing a bomb near her helicopter’s landing pad.[62] A senior aide to Queen Sirikit, Thanpuying Viriya Chavakul, was injured and narrowly escaped death when gunmen attacked her vehicle convoy on 21 February 2007 in Yala.[63] She later criticized the government for rotating troops too often, preventing them from building bonds with locals. She also made note of troops' lack of communications equipment and bulletproof vests.[64]

After an official visit to Thailand, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi volunteered to act as a mediator in arranging talks between insurgents and Thai authorities. Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram rejected the offer.[65]

During the Chinese New Year weekend (from the evening of 18 February 2007 to the afternoon of 19 February 2007), insurgents executed 38 bombing attacks, 26 cases of arson, and seven ambushes. The bombings targeted hotels, karaoke bars, power grids and commercial sites. Two public schools were torched. Three people were arrested.[66][67] Junta chief Sonthi and Interior Minister Aree Wongsearaya admitted that they knew in advance that attacks were going to take place, then failed to their occurrence.[68] Aree later admitted that the government's southern strategy was flawed.[69]

On 21 February, in their most significant act of economic terrorism and arson to date, insurgents burned down the Southland Rubber warehouse in Yala, destroying 5,000 tons of rubber worth approximately 400 million baht and engulfing Yala city in a dense cloud of black smoke for 12 hours. Thirty fire trucks fought to control the flames in the largest rubber warehouse in the deep south. Spikes were scattered on the road leading to the warehouse to slow down the emergency workers. No casualties were reported.[70]

In March 2007, the junta's top security advisor admitted that insurgents imported their techniques from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and were motivated by not only by nationalist reasons, like previous generations of insurgents, but religious extremism as well.[71][72] However, it noted that it still did not know who was behind the insurgency.[73]

To protect the Buddhist minority from violence, the Internal Security Operations Command produced Jatukham Rammathep amulets for public distribution. The renowned animist amulets were believed by some to have magical powers to protect their holders from violence and large sums were generally paid for them. The plan was developed by Colonel Manas Khongpan, deputy director of the ISOC in Yala province.[74]

In March 2007, Queen Sirikit vowed to protect people of all religions in the South, and initiated weapons training programmes for locals, particularly teachers. Sirikit's deputy aide-de-camp Napol Boonthap said that the government should review its strategy and not only use a reconciliatory approach towards the insurgents. "Legal action must also be taken against the wrongdoers to show we mean business," he said.[75]

On 14 March, 8 commuters from Betong to Hat Yai were executed after their van was stopped by insurgents. A roadside bomb delayed rangers stationed nearby in their efforts to reach the site.[76] A Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) executive blamed a portion of the violence directly on paramilitary rangers who instigated violence and then blamed insurgents for their deeds.[77]

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn's motorcade was against targeted with a bombing in March 2007. A local police team found the bomb before it could explode.[75]

In April 2007, junta chief Sonthi rejected an American offer to help train Thai forces to quell the insurgency. Sonthi continued to deny that international terrorists operate in the South.[78]

On 9 April 2007, a pick-up truck carrying students and other passengers returning from a funeral was shot upon, killing two 12-year-old boys and two other 25-year-old university students. The funeral was for the Khuen Bang Lang tambon administration organisation chief, who was shot dead hours earlier the same day. The military initially claimed that insurgents were behind the shooting. It later admitted that village defence volunteers attacked, after allegedly being "provoked" by insurgent sympathisers on the truck. Several hundred angry villagers staged protests against the shooting, demanding the government take action against those responsible.[79]

Protest after a misapprehending shooting by security forces, Thai soldiers in Pattani shot and killed three Muslim teenagers on 13 April 2007. The soldiers, who were dispatched to investigate the torching of four mobile-phone relay outlets, opened fire on a group of teenagers when the soldiers thought the teenagers were charging at them. Locals reported that the teenagers were playing tag on the road near a weekly open market close to where the soldiers were investigating. Three teenagers, aged 13 to 15 years-old, were killed and two others were injured. Local Army commander Colonel Wanchai Paungkhumsa initially said the soldiers had acted in self-defense, saying that gunshots were fired from where a teenager was standing. Residents ended their protest after reaching a series of agreements with Pattani Governor Panu Uthairath over the shooting. The military agreed to investigate the shootings, and if it was a negligent act, The soldier would be faced criminal charge, transferred out of the area and an apology would be given to locals.[80]

In May 2007, Sonthi started withdrawing troops from the South, replacing them with territorial defence volunteers. He did not say why the regular army was to be reduced in the South.[81]

On 14 May 2007, Separatist insurgents shot dead a Thai-Buddhist couple working as fruit pickers in the majority-Muslim area of Bannang Sata, Yala provine and injured their three-year-old daughter. After gunning down Praphan Ponlarak, 36, and his wife Chaddakan, the assailants decapitated Praphan, making him the 29th victim to be beheaded in Thailand's troubled deep South.[82]

Violence continued with a noted trend towards targeting soldiers and policemen, particularly after the militants' actions were criticized by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.[83] On 9 May 2007, the army saw its worse casualty in a single incident in years, when seven soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing incident.[84] Two policemen were shot dead and their bodies burnt in another attack on 11 May 2007,[85][86] which the authorities suspect were conducted by the same group which killed the soldiers.[87] Another 11 soldiers were killed on 31 May 2007 in similar style to the incident on 9 May.[88]

Between 27 May and 29 May 2007, several concerted bombings occurred, both in Hat Yai downtown in front of markets, shops and hotels, and also in Saba Yoi, altogether killing more than four people and injuring over 20. The attacks targeted Chinese-Thai, who consider them 'Jews of the Far East' because they are barred from the Thai civil service and are mainly traders.[89]

In July 2007, Former Fourth Army chief Harn Leelanont criticized the junta's reconciliation policy in the South, saying it left security personnel incapable of containing the violence. He claimed that it left officials and innocent people as sitting ducks to be picked off by militants.[90]

The military junta went on a massive spending spree, buying new weaponry and a dozen fighter jets from Sweden, saying it needed the hardware to battle the insurgency.[91]

2008Edit

According to the Thai Journalists Association, during the year 2008 alone there were over 500 attacks, resulting in more than 300 deaths in the four provinces where the insurgents operate.[92]

On 3 August 2008, five bombs went off in the town of Songkhla injuring 2 people. The same night, two bombs also exploded in Hat Yai, but caused no casualties.[93]

2009Edit

Violence continued in 2009 despite the deployment of about 30,000 troops in the troubled southern region.

On 20 February 2009, two Thai soldiers were beheaded after a military convoy was ambushed. It was the second attack in in the same month following the same pattern.[94]

On 23 October 2009, a Muslim man was killed by gunmen while leaving a mosque after prayers in Yala province. Also in Yala a Muslim couple was shot in their home and the husband was killed. On the same day the body of a Muslim man killed by insurgents was dumped on the side of the road in the Yarang district of Pattani province.[95]

On 1 November 2009, a teenage girl was shot and killed in Yala province. A bomb exploded at the scene after the murder, wounding three police officers. The same day the police found the body of a man that had been handcuffed and murdered at a rice farm in the area.[95]

On 12 November 2009, a Buddhist couple was shot and killed and five people were wounded in an explosion when they rushed to the scene following the murder that took place at a rice mill in Pattani province.[95]

On 8 December 2009, a bomb exploded at a local Thai market in the Muang District of Narathiwat province, killing two people and wounding nine others. The blast happened about 1 km from a hotel where Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his visiting Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak were having lunch during a trip to the local region that same day. Sources say the bomb was hidden in the gas tank of a motorcycle.[96]

On 10 December 2009, three Buddhist women were killed by a remote-controlled bomb outside a restaurant in Narathiwat.[97]

2010Edit

On 2 January 2010, three soldiers and 3 civilians were injured by roadside bombs in Yala at 10 am in Bannang Sata district, Yala province.[98]

On 13 January 2010, Mayo district chief Wirat Prasetto was seriously injured along with ten other civilians when a bomb detonated at a pier in Pattani province. The bombing is being blamed on Muslim insurgents. One person was killed in the explosion.[99]

Two villagers sitting at a tea shop in Narathiwat were shot and murdered by gunmen on motorcycles.[95]

On 1 April 2010, suspect insurgents shot dead six villagers in Narathiwat province. Ten policemen and soldiers were also wounded when a roadside bomb exploded as they were traveling to the scene of the shootings.[100]

On 22 May 2010, two female villagers were killed in a drive-by shooting in Yala province by suspected separatist militants.[101] On 28 May 2010, two were killed and 52 injured in two bomb attacks in Yala[102]

On 8 September 2010, police apprehended a RKK leader while he was in his house in Yala province[103]

2011Edit

On 11 February 2011, three people were shot and burned.[104] A car bomb exploded on the 13th which injured 18 people, civilians and soldiers, leaving seven hospitalised.[105] Meanwhile, an insurgent was shot dead by soldiers.

On 22 March 2011, a man and two women were shot in a village of Narathiwat Province on evening by about a dozen armed men. Police suspect the gunmen were Muslim insurgents who believed their victims were informants.[106]

On 23 March 2011, a roadside bomb went off in a village in Narathiwat when a truck carrying police arrived. None were wounded. The killings the night before may have been intended to lure security personnel to the scene to be attacked.[106]

On 18 April 2011, a car bomb exploded in the business district of Yala, killing a Thai paramilitary ranger and injuring 23 people including four other rangers.[107]

On 3 May 2011, two grenades were fired at Pattani Task Force 21 base, but did not hurt anyone.

On 11 May 2011, a bomb blast during a football match in Kapho District in Pattani Province killed four officers and wounding 13 others. Eight suspects were detained. In Yala Province, two officers and two civilians were injured after a roadside bomb detonated in Meung District.[108]

On 14 May 2011, four insurgents came and demanded money from a gas station. The wife of the owner refused, resulting them shooting her and her sister. After that, the owner of the gas station came and shot dead one of the insurgents, causing the other three to retreat. The dead insurgent turned out to be a minor leader operating in the area who was wanted for the 2009 Narathiwat bombings.

On 17 May 2011, a roadside bomb detonated in Yaha District in Yala Province, killing two monks and seriously wounding two of their security escorts. More than 100 local Muslims gathered at the local mosque and condemned the violence.[109] On 18 May, a Thahan Phran from the 47th Regiment was shot and seriously wounded in Yala, Meung District[110]

On 20 May 2011, a 30-man Thahan Phran unit from the same Regiment engaged and killed four insurgents in Ban Charupae in Than To District in Yala. They seized two AK-47 assault rifles, a .38 caliber pistol and nine mobile phones. One of the dead was identified as Ma-ae Aphibalbae, a key leader operating in the area who was sought for at least 28 alleged crimes, with a bounty of 2,000,000 baht.[111][112] Meanwhile in Narathiwat Province, two carbombs exploded, injuring a policeman and 8 other civilians.[113]

On 22 May 2011, in Nong Chik District, Pattani province, suspected insurgents shot a couple, Mr Pong and Mrs Somchit Khunee-art, killing both of them.[114]

On 24 May 2011, in Tak Bai, Narathiwat province, a bomb detonated, killing a policeman and a policewoman while they were distributing food to the local community. Pol Sgt Ubonwan Chindapetch was the first policewoman to die in an explosion in the south.[114] Meanwhile, in Sai Buri district, Pattani province, an unknown number of gunmen came and shot Muhammat Stapo, the younger brother of Ismael Rayahlong, a major RKK leader operating in the area who was suspected of the killing of two monks on 17 May.[115][116] In Krong Pinang District, Yala province, insurgents shot dead Barudin Sama, assistant village head of Ban Tohbala as he was riding to the tea shop.[114]

On 25 May 2011, 12 soldiers from the 13 Regiment in Yala were ambushed by three insurgents, resulting the death of one soldier, private Chuchat Kaeowonghio. A few hours later, a bomb detonated under a humvee carrying 20 soldiers, seriously wounding 6 of them.[116]

On 27 May 2011, police apprehended two RKK leaders in Narathiwat province.[117]

On 30 May 2011, a bomb went off in Meung district, Yala province, wounding five soldiers, and on 31 May, two insurgents accidentally detonated a bomb, killing themselves and injuring one other insurgent in Narathiwat province. One of the dead was identified as Abas Abu, wanted on multiple charges of attacking state officials and multiple bombings. His brother was the insurgent shot dead in February 2011.[118]

On 2 June 2011, eight Navy SEALS from Narathiwat Task Force 32 clashed with five RKK insurgents in the Budo Mountain Range, resulting the death of three insurgents while the other two got away. They seized two M16 assault rifles, 1 .38 pistol, 1 land mine, 1 grenade and over 100 rounds of ammunition. Two of the dead insurgents were identified as senior recruitment members of the RKK while the third was identified as the bomb maker of the group.[119][120][121]

On 4 June 2011, soldiers located two unexploded bombs in the middle of Tak Bai Market.[122]

On 1 August 2011, a roadside bomb killed 1 and injured 2 soldiers in the Yarang District.[123]

In August 2011, 53 people were killed and 75 wounded, in insurgency related incidents.[124]

On 13 September 2011, Thai police confiscated five guns, ammunition and sums of currency in a house of a Narathiwat provincial administrative organisation.Evidence connected the house owner with insurgency organisations.[125]

On 14 September 2011, insurgents fire bombed the Palukasamoh Police Station complex, the almost complete building was completely destroyed.[126]

On 15 September 2011, five paramilitary rangers were killed and one wounded in a roadside bomb blast, in the Kapho district[126]

On 16 September 2011, three bombs exploded on the Charoen Khet road, Sungai Kolok district.In the aftermath of the incident, 4 people were killed and 110 injured, the majority of which were Malaysian tourists.[125]

On 23 September 2011, a bomb blast seriously wounded a soldier, guarding a school in the Rangae district.[127]

On 1 October 2011, a truck driver was shot and killed in Pattani province. In Narathiwat province, Chanae district, a village chief was shot dead. A motorcade of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre secretary-general Panu Uthairat was ambushed by armed men in Pattani, injuring none.[128][129][130]

On 3 October 2011, three people were shot, two houses were burnt, and a bomb went off near a tank carrying six soldiers in Pattani province. Police found a hole dug on the Pattani-Yala railway line and said it was in preparation for a bomb attack.[131] On 20 October, a wood trader was shot dead in Narathiwat Province[132]

On 13 October 2011, a Mayo district official along with his driver were killed, after four insurgents attacked them with automatic weapons, in the Pattani province.One person was killed and one injured by stray bullets in the same incident.Another attack occurred in the Panareh district.Four gunmen attacked a seafood processing business, killing three people and planting a bomb, which was later defused by Thai police.[133]

On 23 October 2011, a bomb exploded inside a convenience store, located on the Phichit Bamrung road, Muang Narathiwat municipality.A second bomb detonated inside a convenience store, located on the Chamroon Nara road, Muang Narathiwat municipality.In a third incident, 10 militants engaged in a firefight with defence volunteers, in the Kasoh village, Muang Narathiwat municipality.A total of 7 people were killed and 8 injured, in the three incidents.[134]

On 25 October 2011, 10 bombs went off in Meung District, Yala province, killing three people and injuring 44 others. Two of the dead were insurgents whose bombs accidentally went off when they hit a speed hump. Soldiers defused another 21 bombs. Over 60 insurgents were involved in this attack. Two soldiers were injured in separate attacks in Pattani province.[135]

On 30 October 2011, two men were shot and injured by suspected insurgents in Rueso district, Narathiwat province.[136]

On 31 October 2011, 10 bombs went off in five districts across Narathiwat province, injuring none. However, suspected insurgents shot dead two people at a petrol station and a third at a nearby grocery shop. In Yala province, a police corporal was wounded in an explosion.[137][138]

On 2 November 2011, in Yala province, a 20 kg bomb went off, injuring 2 police border patrol officers of the Yala 44 regiment, and seriously injuring one other, Sansern Nama.[139]

On 3 November 2011, in Narathiwat province, a 50-man police-military joint force arrested an insurgent who confessed to planting a bomb in Narathiwat on 30 October.[140] While in the Ra-ngae district, six hunters were killed and one seriously injured when insurgents blew their truck up. Later that day, six military personnel were injured in the same region.[141]

On 4 November 2011, an unknown number of insurgents fired M-79 grenade launchers into a military checkpoint, seriously injuring a passerby, Tiem Bangkeaw in Pattani province.[142] In Narathiwat province, a joint military-defense volunteer task force apprehended two suspected insurgents carrying a shotgun and a 9mm pistol.[143][144]

On 14 November 2011, a rubber taper was killed by rebels at his workplace, in the Narathiwat province.[145]

On 16 November 2011, 9 bombs exploded in the Muang, Yaring and Yarang districts.In the Nong Chik district, a military outpost came under assault rifle fire.In the Panare district, rebels perpetrated 3 grenade attacks.In the aftermath of the attacks, only minor material damage was recorded.[146]

On 20 November 2011, in Narathiwat province, a 50-men Thahan Phran squad from the 46th regiment got into a 30-minute gunfight with 4-5 groups of RKK insurgents, resulting the death of a key leader of the RKK, with a bounty of over 1 million baht, and was responsible for numerous attacks including one on the same regiment a year ago. Moreover, they apprehended 2 other insurgents as well.[147]

On 21 November 2011, an explosive device detonated outside a laundry shop located on the Charoen Pradit road, Pattani, injuring 9 people.Another bomb injured 6 policemen escorting monks in the Muang district.Insurgents blew up power poles in the Than To district.[148]

On 1 December 2011, a police task-force apprehended a RKK insurgent instructor in the Yarang district of the Yala province.[149] Meanwhile, a soldier, Priavte Kriangkrai Pornhormfai, was killed after stepping on a mine, and another, Siam Sealao, was seriously wounded.

On 5 December 2011, a 40-man Thahan Phran unit of the 45th regiment apprehended 3 suspected insurgents, a shotgun along with an amount of drugs were confiscated in the process, the arrest occurred in the Narathiwat province[150]

2012Edit

On 1 February, a Thahan Phran, Thanong Sinthu, was shot in Pattani Province.[151]

On 3 February, an illegal oil trader was shot in Bacho District, Narathiwat Province. In a separate incident in Pattani Province a woman was killed and her husband and son were injured. Deep South Watch announced 33 dead and 55 injured in January as a result of clashes in south Thailand, with no insurgent casualties.[152][153][154]

On 4 February, a truck driver, Mahama Yakee, was shot in Pattani Province early in the morning.[155]

On 21 February, in Panare District, Pattani Province, 3 insurgents were killed after they clashed with the 44th regiment Thahan Phran, while 3 rangers were injured and 2 AK-47 rifles were seized. In Rueso District, Narathiwat Province, a former PULO leader was shot dead at his home. He has been known to have been approached by many RKK members to join their cause but he refused. Finally, in Si Sakhon District, Narathiwat Province, a 100-man Thahan Phran from the 46th regiment clashed with around 10 insurgents resulting one ranger, Sgt Rithidej Sriruangdej, seriously wounded, and key insurgent, wanted for many arrest warrants, killed.[156]

On 28 February, in Raman District, Yala Province, soldiers from the 12th special task force clashed with 3 insurgents, resulting the death of a key insurgent wanted on multiple charges and the apprehension of another insurgent.[157][158]

On 5 March, a blast at a market in the Tak Bai District wounded 8.[159][160]

On 7 March, 4 soldiers and a rubber tapper were killed in two separate attacks in Narathiwat and Pattani Provinces.[161] Two days later at least 50 militants attacked an army base in Yala Province, shooting electricity poles down to block escape routes, kidnapping 2 soldiers and injuring 12 more. The missing officers were later discovered shot to death with their hands bound and their weapons gone.[162]

On 10 March, a local politician was shot dead with a M-16 assault rifle and 9mm pistol in Pattani's Ka Por District by a group of four or five assailants in a sedan.[163]

On 12 March, two soldiers were wounded by a bomb explosion while providing security for teachers in Pattani's Sai Buri District.[164][165] Meanwhile, in Yarang District, an unknown number of persons set afire the office of the Rawaeng subdistrict Tambon Administration Organisation.[166][167]

On 15 March, a motorcycle bomb exploded in Pattani, killing one villager and wounding three others including two soldiers.[168]

On 17 March, one school girl was killed and four others injured, two critically, in a roadside bomb attack apparently intended for soldiers in Pattani.[169]

On 19 March, a member of a village security team was shot dead in Pattani's Yaring District.[170][171]

On 21 March, Thai army has accepted responsibility for killing four innocent civilians in the insurgency-plagued south two months ago.[172][173]

On 25 March, an assistant village head in Narathiwat and a defence volunteer in Pattani were killed in drive-by shooting's.[174] At night, a policeman was shot dead by militants in Pattani's Yarang District.[175]

On 29 March, a security guard was killed in a drive-by shooting's in Pattani’s Muang District.[176]

On 31 March, four bombs exploded in Yala shopping districts and the parking lot of a hotel in Hat Yai, killing 16 and injuring more than 300 others.[177][178]

On 3 April, a police officer from the Muang Pattani police station was seriously wounded by a gunman at a fishing pier in moo 6 of tambon Samilae in Pattani’s Muang District.[179]

On 4 April, two men on a motorcycle hurled a grenade at a PTT gas station at Ban Pongsata in Pattani's Yarang District.[180]

On 5 April, a car care shop owner was killed and his son seriously injured in a shooting in Pattani's Yaring District.[181]

On 11 April, three villagers were killed when gunmen opened fire at them as they were leaving a mosque in Pattani's Panare District.[182]

On 13 April, five passengers were wounded when gunmen on motorcycles attacked a bus in Pattani's Sai Buri District.[183]

On 15 April, police seized large amounts of weapons including 4 M16 assault rifles in Sai Buri District, Pattani Province.[184]

On 19 April, a 100-man squad clashed with a 14 insurgents in Yala Province, resulting the death of 5 insurgents and the others managed to escape.[185] After some forensic work, it was revealed that one of the dead insurgents was a key leader wanted on over 7 charges. Meanwhile in Narathiwat Province, a 30-man Thahan Phran unit from the 45th regiment apprehended 2 RKK members wanted on shooting 2 teachers in 2010. On a separate incident, a bomb detonated, injuring 5 soldiers in the same province.[184]

On 22 April, an insurgent was shot dead by combined police Thahan Phran forces after resisting arrest in Rueso District, Narathiwat Province.[186]

On 24 April village chief Sainung Ada was shot dead in Narathiwat Province.[187] In Tak Bai District, a bomb detonated injuring 3 civilians and 5 soldiers. A 5-year old boy was among the injured.[188]

On 23 July, a rubber tapper, Prinya Sinbut, was shot twice in the body and once in the arm, and is seriously wounded in Mae Lan District, Pattani Province.

On 25 July, after a warning that insurgents will intensify attacks during Ramadan, 5 anti-drug officers were killed and one seriously injured in a car bomb in Raman District. Authorities believe was in retaliation for recent drug suspect arrests.[189]

On 26 July, 2 men, Seng Changkid, and Kittisak Chamnanlee were slain after they left their house in Bannang Sata District[190] and an assistant village headman, Haree Vaebuesar, was shot dead in an ambush in Raman District.[191] All three events occurred in Yala Province.

On 28 July, four soldiers were killed in an ambush by 16 militants.[192]

On 29 July, 5 other civilians, all around Yala Province, were shot dead by insurgents.[193] In addition to this, 4 soldiers were wounded in an attack in the same province.[194]

On 11 September, over 100 insurgents including a major leader, Jae A-Lee, from the group Badan Penyelarasan Wawasan Baru Melayu Patani, surrendered to military authorities, demanding justice in exchange for halting the insurgency. Jae A-Lee also claimed that two other core leaders are in the process of submitting to the military. Jae A-Lee's one million baht bounty, as a reuslt of the deaths of 4 soldiers in 4 January, has also been whitewashed.[195]

2013Edit

According to the region's Internal Security Operations Command, there were 320 bombings in the four border provinces between January and December 2013, compared with 276 reported bombings in 2012.[196] Experts alleged that the rise in deaths was linked to the stalling of peace talks while Yingluck Shinawatra's government faced anti-government protests in Bangkok and court proceedings against it over corruption.

On 10 February, insurgents killed five soldiers and wounded five others in two roadside bomb attacks in Yala province. According to Thai military officials, in the first attack militants detonated a car bomb as a truck carrying six soldiers passed by. Then they opened fire on the soldiers killing five of them, and taking away the dead soldiers' rifles. [197]

On 13 February, at least 17 Muslim insurgents including a commander were killed during an attack on a military base in Narathiwat. None of the Thai military defenders of the base were hurt. [198]

On 12 April, two soldiers were killed and six others wounded in a road side bombing. Suspected militants detonated an improvised bomb hidden on the road surface Pattani province's Panarae district. The soldiers were in two armored vehicles traveling Wednesday night to inspect damages from an earlier militant attack. One of the personnel carriers was badly damaged.[199]

On 26 April, four soldiers were killed and another four seriously injured while attempting to defuse a bomb. According to Thai authorities, the blast happened after troops moved the device which was hidden under a gas tank and placed under a bridge near the Narathiwat military base. [200]

On 1 May, police say suspected insurgents have killed six people including a two-year-old boy in one of the deadliest shootings in Thailand's south this year. [201]

Peace talks were also started in Kuala Lumpur in February at the behest of Malaysia. Barisan Revolusi Nasional's Hassan Taib led the talks, while the Thai government's team was led by Secretary-General of the National Security Council Lieutenant General Paradon Pattanatabut, tasked by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. However, the exiled leader of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation, Kasturi Mahkota, said attacks by his group would continue if they were not invited to the talks. For his part, Pattanatabut said that Thailand would not agree to independence or any contravention of the constitution of Thailand, but would seek to discuss degress of autonomy and an amnesty with the rebels. [202]

2014Edit

9 February, A policeman's wife was shot dead and then set on fire in front of a terrified crowd at a busy market in Pattani, Thailand, officials reported. The woman, 28, was shot down on the afternoon of February 9, 2014 as she returned to her car from a market in the Ratapanyang area of Pattani province. After being shot, the woman's body was set alight, a police officer told AFP. The attack was allegedly carried out in revenge for the deaths of three Muslim brothers that took place during the week of February 2, 2014, aged three, five and nine. The boys were shot in front of their home in neighbouring Narathiwat province. Their pregnant mother and father were also shot in the attack but survived. Srisompob Jitpiromsri, at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani, said the boys' deaths "have set off a chain-reaction which will be hard to control unless authorities can bring to justice their killers". "The insurgent movement is taking their deaths as an opportunity for revenge. Local feelings over this are running very high," he said.[196]

14 March: Siriporn Srichai, a female schoolteacher, was shot dead and her body was burned in Mayo district of Pattani Province.[203]

24 May: Three people were killed and about 80 injured in 13 bomb blasts at at least five 7/11 stores and two gas stations.

28 May: Violence continued in Pattani as a bomb blast at a hospital car park injured 10 people including a soldier. Those injured included Pvt Phonlawat Nonthasen. The most seriously wounded in attacks that have left two dead and more than 70 wounded was a three-year-old girl, Vaesiteeaija Vaelong maimed for life when doctors had to amputate the remains of her right leg after it was mangled by the blast.[204]

28 August: Patimoh Saemaesae, a female schoolteacher, was killed and another teacher and a policeman were wounded in a bomb attack directed at the teachers and their police escort in Khok Pho District of Pattani Province.[205]

5 Sep: It has come to light that a paramilitary volunteer's attempt to portray an unarmed 14 year old Muslim boy falsely as an armed insurgent after killing him has come under investigation by the junta.[206]

12 October: A total of six schools were destroyed by fire in six coordinated arson attacks in Thung Yang Daeng and Mayo districts of Pattani Province;[207] some of the arsonists were subsequently arrested and confessed that their intention had been to set fire to 14 schools, but residents had managed to contact the authorities before they could carry out more arson attacks.[208]

4 November: The military decides to arm civilian groups by distributing thousands of assault rifles allegedly in order to help civilians to fight against the public order disturbing outfits. Human rights groups have protested against this measure, which in their eyes will only make the situation worse.[209]

Reactions and explanationsEdit

Official reactionsEdit

The government at first blamed the attacks on "bandits," and many outside observers do believe that local clan, commercial or criminal rivalries did play a part in the violence. In 2002, Thaksin stated, "There's no separatism, no ideological terrorists, just common bandits." By 2004, however, he had reversed his position and came to regard the insurgency as a local front in the global War on Terrorism. Martial law was instituted in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat in January 2004.[210]

Since the 2006 military coup, the Thai government has taken a more conciliatory approach to the insurgency, avoiding the excessive use of force that typified Thaksin's time, and beginning negotiations with known separatist groups. However, violence has escalated. This likely backs the assertion that there are several groups involved in the violence, few of whom have been placated by the government's change of strategy.[211]

On 3 June 2011, Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha stated that the insurgency is orchestrated from abroad and is funded via drug and oil smuggling.[212]

Political factorsEdit

The Thai authorities claim that the insurgency is not caused by the lack of political representation among the Muslim population. By the late 1990s, Muslims were holding unprecedentedly senior posts in Thai politics, for example with Wan Muhammad Nor Matha, a Malay Muslim from Yala, serving as Chairman of Parliament from 1996 to 2001 under the Democrats and later as Interior Minister during the first Thaksin government. Thaksin's first government (2001–2005) also saw 14 Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) and several Muslim senators. Muslims dominated provincial legislative assemblies in the border provinces, and several southern municipalities had Muslim mayors. Muslims were able to voice their political grievances more openly and enjoy a much greater degree of religious freedom.

The Thaksin regime, however, began to dismantle the southern administration organization replacing it with a notoriously corrupt police force which immediately began widespread crackdowns. Consultation with local community leaders was also abolished. Discontent over the abuses led to growing violence during 2004 and 2005. Muslim politicians and leaders remained silent out of fear of repression, thus eroding their political legitimacy and support. This cost them dearly. In the 2005 general election, all but one of the eleven incumbent Muslim MPs who stood for election were voted out of office.[213]

Economic factorsEdit

Poverty and economic problems have been cited as a factor behind the insurgency.[214][215] However, the performance of the deep South’s economy improved markedly in the past few decades. Between 1983 and 2003, the average per capita income of Pattani grew from 9,340 baht to 57,621 baht, while that of Yala and Narathiwat also increased from 14,987 baht and 10,340 baht to 52,737 baht and 38,553 baht, respectively. However, the border provinces did have the lowest average income among all the southern provinces. Also, the national average is well below the estimated average needed to be considered an acceptable minimum wage by international organizations for SE Asia. One could thus argue that the average per capita income in the southernmost provinces is only about 20-25% of what the Thai minimum wage would be.[citation needed]

Household income improved from 2002 to 2004 by 21.99%, 19.27%, and 21.28% for Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, respectively. For comparison, income growth for all of Thailand in the same period was just 9.4%.

The percentage of people living below the poverty line also fell, from 40%, 36%, and 33% in 2000 to 18%, 10%, and 23% in 2004 for Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala, respectively. By 2004, the 3 provinces had 310,000 people living below the poverty line, compared to 610,000 in 2000. However, 45% of all poor Southerners lived in the 3 border provinces.[216][217]

Muslims in the border provinces generally have lower levels of educational attainment compared to their Buddhist neighbors. 69.80% of the Muslim population in the border provinces have only a primary school education, compared to 49.6% of Buddhists in the same provinces. Only 9.20% of Muslims have completed secondary education (including those who graduated from private Islamic schools), compared to 13.20% of Buddhists. Just 1.70% of the Muslim population have a bachelor’s degree, while 9.70% of Buddhists hold undergraduate degrees. Government schools are taught only in Thai and the secular educational system is being undermined by the destruction of schools and the murders of teachers by the insurgent outfits.[218]

The lesser educated Muslims also have reduced employment opportunities compared to their Buddhist neighbors. Government officials comprised only 2.4% of all working Muslims in the provinces, compared with 19.2% of all working Buddhists. Jobs in the Thai public sector are difficult to obtain for those Muslims who never fully accepted the Thai language or the Thai education system. Insurgent attacks on economic targets are further reducing employment opportunities for both Muslims and Buddhists in the provinces.

Leading insurgent groupsEdit

Original arms of the PULO and GMIP

Currently the most active insurgent movements are the BRN-Coordinate, its alleged armed wing the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), and the GMIP. PULO, the doyen of the Patani insurgent groups and formerly the most respected secessionist movement in the region, has been largely inactive in recent years.

BRN-CEdit

The Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Koordinasi (BRN-C) is currently the most important group, spearheading the insurgency in Southern Thailand. It was revived after 2001 and its leaders are mainly Salafi religious teachers that have rejected the Pan-Arab socialist ideology of the early BRN, engaging in political activism by recruiting followers in mosques and indoctrinating at Islamic schools. This group has the vision of becoming a mass-organization, aiming towards having 400,000 members in its area of operation. The BRN-C has no constructive cultural or nationalistic goals, instead its immediate aim is to make Southern Thailand ungovernable. It has been largely successful at spreading and maintaining and atmosphere of terror and uncertainty through well-trained secret militant units that engage in assassinations and calculated destruction.[13][19]

RKKEdit

The Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), allegedly one of the armed wings of the BRN-C,[19] has been one of the most brutal and ruthless groups of the South Thailand insurgency in recent years. It is formed by young, mostly Salafi, militants who routinely flee to Malaysia after carrying out violent attacks, including bombings, arson and murders, in Yala, Pattani or Narathiwat Province.[21] Although several RKK members have been arrested or killed by the Thai military in the past decade, it is very difficult for those involved in counter-insurgency to penetrate the structure of the group owing to its secrecy and great mobility.[219]

GMIPEdit

Like the BRN-C, the Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP) is a group that experienced a revival after 2001 and has currently more hard-line Islamic political goals, to the detriment of its former nationalist cause.[220] Its members are now believed to have sympathies with Al Qaeda and with the establishment of the transnational Islamic Caliphate.[21]

BBMPEdit

The Barisan Bersatu Mujahidin Patani (BBMP), also known as 'Bersatu', was initially created in 1989 seeking to become an umbrella organization that would unify the efforts of insurgents in the region. The group has sought to drive wedges between Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslims, seeking to disrupt the educational system by attacking schools and harming teachers, an activity in which other groups are currently involved as well.[21] It was reported that some of Bersatu's prominent leaders were arrested or killed before 2004. However, the highly coordinated torching of 18 schools in January 2004 led some to suspect that the Bersatu groups were responsible.[221]

PULOEdit

The Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) is a movement that was founded on the nationalist and secular values of Patani nation-building. Its priority was freeing Pattani from Thai rule by all means, including armed struggle.[19]

However, since 2001 the civil society in the three southern Thai provinces has experienced a widespread imposition of legalistic Salafi norms and the reality on the ground is today very different from what it was in former Southern Thailand. Salafism has heavily eroded Patani cultural identity and current insurgent groups have extreme religious goals, such as an Islamic Caliphate, to the detriment of Patani nationalism. Although some of the present-day insurgents are very likely former PULO members, it is still unclear whether their fight for PULO's cause and it is likely that many may have become part of the more active and religious organizations that have overtaken PULO.[19] At any rate, in recent years PULO's leadership has largely lost control over the insurgents and has a very limited overall degree of influence over the insurgency in Southern Thailand.[13]

On 26 July 2009 Abu Yasir Fikri, President of PULO, and the "Emir" of the Group of Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP), Me Kuteh, agreed to join forces. Abu Yasir Fikri was allowed to speak on behalf of the GMIP on all political issues. The agreement included a section in which they agreed to form a unified military force, the Patani Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA would be commanded by the First Deputy Military Commander of the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO).[222][223]

On 18 April 2009, PULO outlined a solution to conflict at the OICs Twelfth Meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts to consider the Conditions of Muslim Communities and Minorities in Jeddah.[224]

SymbolsEdit

Al-raya flag of Jihad

In the last decade of the unrest in South Thailand, the black Al-raya flag has largely replaced the colourful secessionist flags formerly used by the different groups involved in the insurgency against the Thai government.[225][226]

High profile incidentsEdit

Krue Se Mosque IncidentEdit

On 28 April 2004, more than 100 militants carried out terrorist attacks against 10 police outposts across Pattani, Yala and Songkhla provinces in southern Thailand.[227] 32 gunmen retreated to the 425-year-old Krue Se Mosque, regarded by Muslims as the holiest mosque in Pattani.

General Pallop Pinmanee, commander of the Southern Peace Enhancement Center and Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command, was the senior Army officer on the scene. After a tense seven-hour stand-off, Pallop ordered an all out assault on the mosque. All of the gunmen were killed. He later insisted, "I had no choice. I was afraid that as time passed the crowd would be sympathetic to the insurgents, to the point of trying to rescue them."[228]

It was later revealed that Pallop's order to storm the mosque contravened a direct order by Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to seek a peaceful resolution to the stand-off no matter how long it took.[229] Pallop was immediately ordered out of the area, and later tendered his resignation as commander of the Southern Peace Enhancement Center. The forward command of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), which Pallop headed, was also dissolved. A government investigative commission found that the security forces had overreacted. The Asian Centre for Human Rights questioned the independence and impartiality of the investigative commission. On 3 May 2004 during a Senate hearing, Senator Kraisak Choonhavan noted that most of those killed at Krue Se Mosque had been shot in the head and there were signs that ropes had been tied around their wrists, suggesting they had been executed after being captured.

The incident resulted in a personal conflict between Pallop and Defense Minister Chavalit, who was also director of the ISOC.[230] Pallop later demanded that the Defense Minister cease any involvement in the management of the southern insurgency.[231]

Tak Bai incidentEdit

Main article: Tak Bai Incident

In October 2004 the town of Tak Bai in Narathiwat province saw the most publicized incident of the insurgency. Six local men were arrested for having supplied weapons to insurgents. A demonstration was organized to demand their release and the police called in army reinforcements. The army used tear gas and water cannons on the crowd, and shooting started in which seven men were killed.

Hundreds of local people, mostly young men, were arrested. They were made to take off their shirts and lie on the ground. Their hands were tied behind their backs. Later that afternoon, they were thrown by soldiers into trucks to be taken to the Ingkayutthaboriharn army camp in the nearby province of Pattani. The prisoners were stacked five or six deep in the trucks, and by the time the trucks reached their destination five hours later, in the heat of the day, 78 men had died of suffocation.

This incident sparked widespread protests across the south, and indeed across Thailand, since even non-Muslim Thais were appalled at the army's behaviour. Thaksin, however, gave the army his full support. Those responsible for the ill-treatment and death of the detainees received the most minor of non-custodial punishments. Thaksin's initial response was to defend the army's actions, saying that the 78 men died "because they were already weak from fasting during the month of Ramadan."

Charges were filed against 58 suspects accused of participating in the demonstration. The trials went on at a slow place, and as of October 2006, the court had finished questioning of only two of the 1,500 witnesses in the case. Police were also unable to find 32 Tak Bai protesters who were still at large after fleeing arrest.[232]

On 2 November 2006, then Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont gave a formal apology for the incident.[233] The next day, the insurgents responded by increasing the number of violent acts by fivefold in comparison to the average the preceding month.[61]

Reconciliation and negotiationEdit

Negotiation attemptsEdit

Attempts to negotiate with insurgents were hampered by the anonymity of the insurgency's leaders.

In May 2004, Wan Kadir Che Wan, exiled leader of Bersatu and for years one of the key symbolic figures in the guerrilla movement, stated that he would be willing to negotiate with the Government to end the southern violence. He also hinted that Bersatu would be willing to soften its previous demands for an independent state.[234][235]

The government initially welcomed the request to negotiate. However, the government response was severely criticized as being "knee-jerk" and "just looking to score cheap political points."[235] But when it became apparent that, despite his softened demand for limited autonomy, Wan Kadir Che Man had no influence over the violence, the negotiations were cancelled.[235] The government then began a policy of not attempting to officially negotiate with the insurgents.[236]

After being appointed Army Commander in 2005, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin expressed confidence that he could resolve the insurgency. He claimed that he would take a "new and effective" approach to a crisis and that "The Army is informed [of who the insurgents are] and will carry out their duties."[237]

On 1 September 2006, a day after 22 commercial banks were simultaneously bombed in Yala province, Sonthi announced that he would break with the government no-negotiation policy. However, he noted that "We still don't know who is the real head of the militants we are fighting with."[238] In a press conference the next day, he attacked the government for criticizing him for trying to negotiate with the anonymous insurgents, and demanded that the government "Free the military and let it do the job."[239] His confrontation with the government made his call for negotiation extremely popular with the media.[236] Afterwards, insurgents bombed 6 department stores in Hat Yai city, which until then had been free of insurgent activities. As always, the identity of the insurgents was not revealed. Sonthi was granted an extraordinary increase in executive powers to combat unrest in the far South.[37] By 19 September 2006 (after Sonthi overthrew the Thai government), the Army admitted that it was still unsure who to negotiate with.[240]

National Reconciliation CommissionEdit

On March 2005, respected former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun was appointed as chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, tasked with overseeing that peace is brought back to the South. A fierce critic of the Thaksin-government, Anand frequently criticized the handling of the southern unrest, and in particular the State of Emergency Decree. He has been quoted to have said, "The authorities have worked inefficiently. They have arrested innocent people instead of the real culprits, leading to mistrust among locals. So, giving them broader power may lead to increased violence and eventually a real crisis." Unfortunately, the situation deteriorated from 2005 to 2006, with escalating violence, especially among teachers and civilians. Despite much criticism of the Thaksin-government's policies, Anand refused to submit the NRC's final report, choosing instead to wait for the results of the 2006 legislative election.[241]

Anand finally submitted the NRC's recommendations on 5 June 2006.[242] Among them were

  • Introducing Islamic law
  • Making ethnic Pattani-Malay (Yawi) as a working language in the region
  • Establishing an unarmed peacekeeping force
  • Establishing a Peaceful Strategic Administrative Centre for Southern Border Provinces

The Thaksin government vowed to implement the recommendations. However, the recommendations were vigorously opposed by Prem Tinsulanonda, the President of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council, who stated "We cannot accept that [proposal] as we are Thai. The country is Thai and the language is Thai... We have to be proud to be Thai and have the Thai language as the sole national language".[243]

CasualtiesEdit

Note: Table is not comprehensive

Table is clearly incorrect. Statistics written here state that by end of 2012 "some" 3,380 deaths had resulted while the table shows in excess of 4,400 through 2011.

By end-2012 the conflict since 2004 had resulted in some 3,380 deaths, including 2,316 civilians, 372 troops, 278 police, 250 suspected insurgents, 157 education officials and seven Buddhist monks.[244]

Year Killed
2004 625[245]
2005 550[245]
2006 780[245]
2007 770[245]
2008 450[245]
2009 310[245]
2010 521[246]
2011 535[246]

According to one report in the Patani Post in late May 2014, about 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict during the last decade.[247]

Human Rights IssuesEdit

Human Rights Watch (HRW)[248] cites abuses on both sides. Numerous times the insurgents have murdered Buddhist monks collecting alms, and Buddhist villagers have been killed going about routine work such as rubber tapping, even though Buddhists have lived in the region for centuries. School teachers, headmasters, and students have been killed and schools torched presumably because schools represent a symbol of the Thai Government. Civil servants, regardless of religion, have been targeted for assassination.[92]

Meanwhile, local Muslims have been beaten, killed, or simply "disappeared" during police questioning and custody. Human Rights Watch has documented at least 20 such disappearances.[249] Soldiers and police have sometimes been indiscriminate when pursuing suspected insurgents, resulting in civilian collateral damage.

Of the 2,463 people killed in attacks from 2004 to 2007, 2,196 (89%) were civilians. Buddhist Thais and ethnic Malay Muslims were killed in bomb attacks, shootings, assassinations, ambushes, and machete hackings. At least 29 victims have been beheaded and mutilated.

"There have been hundreds of militant attacks on teachers, schools, public health workers, hospital staff, and community health centers. For the first time in the region's history of separatist insurgencies, Buddhist monks and novices are now among those killed and injured by separatist militants," HRW said in a 2007 report.

"Village-based militants called Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani (Patani Freedom Fighters) in the loose network of BRN-Coordinate (National Revolution Front-Coordinate) have now emerged as the backbone of the new generation of separatist militants.

"Increasingly, they claim that the southern border provinces are not the land of Buddhist Thais, but a religious 'conflict zone' which must be divided between ethnic Malay Muslims and 'infidels'. The separatists seek to forcibly liberate Patani Darulsalam (Islamic Land of Patani), from what they call a Buddhist Thai occupation," HRW continued.[196]

The 2010 World Report from Human Rights Watch highlighted escalating human rights abuses throughout Thailand,[250] with the South reflecting overall policies against individual human rights. Sharply increased powers for police and the military were accompanied by a perceived lack of accountability.

Government harassment of suspected insurgentsEdit

The Asian Human Rights Commission accused the military of beating and torturing suspected insurgents by burning their genitals with cigarettes, smashing beer bottles over their knees, and chaining them to dogs. Such abuses were alleged to have occurred in October 2006, after the military seized power.[251]

In December 2006, a group of 20 Muslims, 9 men and 11 women aged between 2 and 55, sought political asylum in Malaysia. They claimed that the post-coup regime was more aggressive against civilians and that they were continuously harassed by the Army. The Army admitted that the group sought refuge in Malaysia out of fear for their lives - but that the threat was from forces.[252]

A group of Muslims from Narathiwat that fled to Malaysia in March 2007 claimed that they were escaping intimidation and brutality by the military. The group complained that they have been beaten and that their sons have been missing or detained since 2005. It also claimed that some youths had died after they were poisoned during detention.[253]

In late January, 2012, an unknown number of insurgents ambushed a thahan pran base before retreating. The rangers chased the insurgents and were fired upon from a pick up truck. The rangers fired back in self-defence resulting for dead civilians in the truck with others wounded. The rangers found AK-47 assault rifles but also claimed that the four dead civilians were not affiliated with insurgents in anyway. Soldiers from the 4th army regiment are investigating.This killing has angered many Thai Muslims as the four dead persons are mosque leaders (an imam, a moulana,a khatib, and a bilai).[254]

In early February, the ministry of interior proposed a 7.5 million baht to all victims of the insurgency including those from the Tak Bai Massacre and the Kru Se Mosque Incident.[255]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Peter Chalk (2008). The Malay-Muslim Insurgency in Southern Thailand: Understanding the Conflict's Evolving Dynamic. RAND National Defence Research Institute. ISBN 9780833045348. 
  • Rohan Gunaratna; Arabinda Acharya (2013). Terrorist Threat from Thailand: Jihad or Quest for Justice?. Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1597972024. 
  • Michael Jerryson (July 2011). Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199793242. 
  • Duncan McCargo (2008). Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-7499-6. 
  • Duncan McCargo (2012). Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand’s Southern Conflict. NIAS Press. 
  • Thitinan Pongsudhirak (2007). The Malay-Muslim insurgency in Southern Thailand. A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia (Edward Elgar Publishing). ISBN 978-1-84720-718-0. 

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Further readingEdit

  • David K Wyatt, Thailand: A Short History (Yale University Press, 2003)
  • Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, Thaksin: The Business of Politics in Thailand (Silkworm Books, 2004)
  • Nirmal Ghosh, "Mystery group runs insurgency in Thai south," Straits Times, 25 July 2005
  • "Tak Bai victims and relatives file lawsuits" The Bangkok Post, 23 October 2005

External linksEdit

Note: Some of these websites may be censored for internet access from within Thailand