APCSS professor Dr. Ian Storey recently published a report on the separatist movement in Thailand called “Ethnic Separatism in Southern Thailand: Kingdom Fraying at the Edge?“
According to the report, nearly 1,900 lives have been lost n separatist violence in Thailand’s three Muslim-majority southern provinces since January 2004.
“The root causes of this latest phase of separatist violence are a complex mix of history, ethnicity, and religion, fueled by socio-economic disparities, poor governance, and political grievances,” states Storey. “Observers differ on the role of radical Islam in the south, though the general consensus is that transnational terrorist groups are not involved.”
In addition, a clear picture of the insurgency is rendered difficult by the multiplicity of actors, and by the fact that none of the groups involved has articulated clear demands. What is apparent, however, is that the overall aim of the insurgents is the establishment of an independent Islamic state comprising the three provinces, according to Storey.
The paper’s overview also states that:
The heavy-handed and deeply flawed policies of the Thaksin government during 2004-2006 deepened the trust deficit between Malay-Muslims and the Thai authorities and fueled separatist sentiment.
Post-coup, the Thai authorities have made resolving violence in the south a priority, and promised to improve governance and conduct a more effective counter-insurgency campaign.
- Despite the emphasis on national reconciliation, violence in the south has escalated dramatically post-coup. Although the Thai government predicts that the violence will be contained within six months, few observers share this optimism, and many expect that the violence will increase during 2007.
- The United States is constrained in its ability to assist Thailand, as the presence of U.S. military advisers would likely exacerbate the problem. The United States should, however, encourage the Thai authorities to improve good governance in the south, and pass on counter-insurgency lessons learned from American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of APCSS, the U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.