Thailand: The Impossible Dreams


May 26, 2012:  The government is trying to speed up pacification efforts in the Moslem south. This is not easily done, as the main problem there is low economic development and the resulting poverty. Even before the current Islamic terrorist activity began eight years ago, widespread criminal gang activity down there discouraged major economic development. Since 2004, there have been over 11,000 terrorist incidents, causing some 14,000 casualties (about 40 percent of them fatal). This makes it difficult to attract new business development and the local gangs (which helped the Islamic radical groups get going) want to keep it that way.

The Islamic terrorism is mostly directed at the non-Moslem (mostly ethnic Thais) in the south and 400 secular schools. Some 6,000 soldiers are assigned to protect these schools and the teachers (most of them non-Moslem). The Islamic radical groups responsible for these attacks refuse to negotiate with the government. They want to establish a religious dictatorship in the three southern provinces (mostly populated by ethnic Malay Moslems). Most of these Moslems want no part of a religious dictatorship but would like more economic development. Because of that more and more of the terrorist attacks are against local Moslems who refuse to support the Islamic radicals.

The army has quietly conducted a survey of its battalion commanders, to find those most willing to follow their leaders under stressful circumstances, like another government takeover (as recently occurred in 2006). The army has also completed creating another combat division in the three southern Moslem provinces. This means nine infantry battalions no longer have to be taken from divisions near the capital or the northeast (where most of the populist or "red shirt" support is) for temporary duty in the south. The minority royalists ("yellow shirts") have the support of senior government, academic, military, and business officials. They oppose populist politicians. These populist parties have most of the votes but, so far, the monarchists have maintained the support of the military.  

May 17, 2012: Some 3,500 U.S. and Thai troops began nine days of joint naval and amphibious exercises. This is the 18th annual CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) exercises.  

May 14, 2012:  In the south two bombs were used to attack public fairs, leaving 17 local security guards and three civilians wounded.

May 11, 2012:  In south China 126 Thai marines and 372 Chinese counterparts began several days of joint exercises. Called Blue Commando-2012, this is the second such exercise since 2010.

May 8, 2012: Burma has been asked to arrest a Karen tribal rebel leader (Na Kham Mwe) who has threatened to harm Thais living or working on the Burma side of the border if the Thai government does not retract a recently announced reward for the capture of Na Kham Mwe. He is one of three Burmese drug smugglers named on a new Thai "25 Most Wanted" list. Na Kham Mwe considers himself a tribal rebel first (against an oppressive Burmese government) and a drug smuggler second (to pay for the rebellion). Thailand is offering $32,000 reward for the capture of Mwe. Burma, unwilling to stir up more trouble among the Karen tribes, has refused to try and arrest Mwe (who is guarded by thousands of armed followers).


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