March 4, 2008:
The war in the south is getting out of hand, as far as
the smuggling gangs are concerned. The criminals thought they could benefit
from the Islamic terrorism attacks against the police. But four years of such
violence has killed nearly 3,000 people, brought over 30,000 additional police
and soldiers to the south, and made locals more hostile to Islamic radicals and
gangsters. That's mainly because much of the Islamic terrorism has been
directed at local Moslems suspected of helping the police. The Islamic radicals
are paranoid to begin with, so many of the Moslems they "punish" (with threats,
a beating or murder) are innocent. The gangs just want less police interference
in their smuggling operations, while the Islamic radicals want to establish an
Islamic state in southern Thailand. Neither Thailand, nor neighboring Moslem
Malaysia, will let that happen. So the violence in the south will continue
until the local Moslems get tired of it. There's no possibility of it
succeeding, it's mainly a matter of how much damage will be done in the south
before it's all over.
There are also problems on Thailands other borders. Up north, an
exiled Burmese (Myanmar) Karen tribal leader was assassinated by two men. The
Myanmar government was believed behind this, as they have paid for similar
operations against tribal rebel leaders living on the other side of the border.
The Myanmar government has been fighting the northern tribes since the end of World
War II, and the tribes have been losing of late, with most of the more lively rebels in exile.
Cambodia is trying to get Thai border guards to be less trigger happy
dealing with Cambodians trying to sneak across the border to find work. Once or
twice a month, the "warning shots" kill a Cambodian border jumper. There is
also a sea border dispute, made particularly acute because of the possible
presence of oil and gas in the disputed area.