Thailand: Stand By Me


March 21, 2006: The political turmoil is doing more damage to the economy than the Islamic violence in the south. Tourism officials report that at least 65,000 tourists, mostly from China, Japan and Singapore, cancelled their trips because of the political unrest. The violence in the south takes place in the countryside, away from areas where tourists are found. The current political unrest is largely in urban areas, where tourists hear about it, and would be in the middle of it. The unrest is likely to continue until the elections are held next month. Urban reformers are trying to unseat an efficient prime minister who is popular with the majority (mostly the rural population), and has not gone after corruption energetically, or paid attention to the concerns of urban groups.

March 17, 2006: Islamic terrorists struck again in the south, attacking in two different places.

March 16, 2006: The government has changed strategy in the Islamic south, and is now concentrating more on economic development and building personal relationships with local leaders. The police and army are being sent after the numerous criminal organizations that have long dominated the area, and thrived on smuggling. The gangs, and many of their younger members, have been one source of manpower, and weapons, for the Islamic terrorists. The other source has been the growing number of Islamic schools, that preach violence in order to spread Islam, and drive out non-Moslems.

March 14, 2006: In the south, Islamic terrorists attacked a Buddhist village council meeting and killed at least five people. This is part of the terrorist strategy of driving all non-Moslems out of the area. It is working, as the non-Moslem population in the south shrinks every month.




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