July 5, 2012: The Islamic radical violence in the south has forced the government to confront the endemic and long-standing dominance of criminal gangs down there. One reason for seizing control of the area a century ago was to control the gangs, who preyed on nearby Thai populations. But until a decade ago, the government was content to leave the gangs alone as long as these Moslem criminals kept a low profile. But nine years ago the gangs decided to exploit the religion angle. The three southern provinces are Moslem, and when the government came down hard (killing dozens) on Islamic radicals the gangs saw an opportunity. The "terrorists" are a combination of Islamic radicals (most of the people in the three southern provinces are Moslem), Malay nationalists (nearly all the Moslems are ethnic Malay, not Thai, which 97 percent of Thailand's population is), and gangsters (smuggling has long been a big business down there). The ethnic Thai majority refused (as they usually do) to back down in the face of Malay Moslem violence, and now the Moslem minority is increasingly hostile to the Islamic terrorists and cooperating with the police. This happened gradually as it became obvious over the last eight years that the Thai government was never going to give in. As a result of this, the militants turned on the Moslem civilians, which is a downward spiral that eventually destroys the Islamic radicals. The national government has also sent more economic aid to the south and improved the educational system.
The army claims that, in the last eight years, the number of Islamic militants in the south has been reduced more than half, to under 5,000. The violence has also declined, but all this is mainly because more and more southerners are fed up with years of violence. Eight years of unrest down there has meant nearly 12,000 violent acts, 5,200 dead, and over 9,000 wounded. The gangs provided weapons, technical advice, and some muscle to get the Islamic terrorism going and now to keep it going. The Moslem population down there is fed up with the gangs and their Islamic radical allies. The government offers lots of economic development but that cannot really happen until the terrorism is eliminated. The gangs are under pressure to turn on the Islamic terrorists and fade into the background again. This would allow external (from the government and foreigners) investment to come in while the gangs went back to avoiding the police and smuggling drugs and other goods from Malaysia. Some of the gang leaders are opposed to dropping support for the Islamic terrorists because this has distracted the police and made it easier to operate. But other gang leaders point out that the terrorism has brought many more police and soldiers into the south and that the Thais have made it clear that they will never surrender control of the three Moslem provinces. Given the dominance of Thais and Buddhists (97 percent of the population) and the fighting reputation of Thais (fierce and persistent), a growing number of gangsters are willing to admit the error and dump the Islamic terrorists, before the Thai government grinds down the terrorists and the gangs.
July 3, 2012: In the south three roadside bombs left one dead and six wounded.
June 29, 2012: In the south two Buddhist defense volunteers were shot dead while driving along a road.
June 25, 2012: Malaysia has agreed to send back to Thailand an Iranian terrorist who was arrested in Malaysia last February as he sought to flee from Thailand back to Iran. The Thai government is prosecuting five Iranians for their terrorist activity last February. One of the suspects fled to Iran and another got caught in Malaysia. The government has been told by India that the five were connected with similar attacks against Israelis in Georgia and India. Iran has not cooperated with the Thai investigation and denies any involvement.
June 21, 2012: In the south a roadside bomb wounded a soldier and civilian.
June 18, 2012: Indian investigators have concluded that Iran was behind attacks last February against Israelis in Thailand, Georgia, and India.