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Trouble in Thailand's Muslim South: Separatism, not Global Terrorism (Asia-Pacific Security Studies, Volume 3, Number 10, December 2004)

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Since the beginning of 2004, southern Thailand has become caught up in an escalating cycle of violence. In January 2004, Thailand placed three provinces in the South -- Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat known collectively as Patani under martial law following a well-coordinated attack on army and police facilities. Subsequent violence, including the suffocation of around 80 Muslim youth detained in army trucks in October 2004 has polarized views about the ongoing conflict. In Thailand there are around 4 million Muslims within a total population of 62 million, 80 of whom live in 5 southern provinces Songkhla and Satun are the other two. Despite violence in the south of Thailand hitting the headlines in 2004, there has been ongoing dissatisfaction with the Thai government in terms of lack of development, cultural identity, and human rights abuses. Intra-elite rivalry and criminality complicate the picture and contribute to the violence. The emergence of separatist-linked violence in Thailands south is the result of complex social upheaval. Judging the violence to be the result of al-Qaida, or its regional affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah JI, is premature. The principal umbrella grouping of separatist groups, Bersatu, directs its anger primarily at the Thai government on the grounds of perceptions of local injustice. Nonetheless, Thailand is now addressing the problem in its Muslim south because it fears that international terrorist actors may be able to graft themselves onto the situation in southern Thailand. The Thaksin government is aware that the means to stem rebellion in the south depends as much on socioeconomic policies as it does on the actions of the security forces. The Thai government has pushed forward a raft of new measures that include development funds and the closer monitoring of Islamic schools in addition to an increase in action by the security forces.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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