Thailand: No One To Talk To

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April 4,2008: So far, the Islamic terrorism in the south, has stayed in the south. Much of the tourist activity (14 million foreign visitors, 6 percent of GDP) is in the south, but the only attacks on tourists down there have been by common criminals. The Islamic terrorism in the south gets the most media attention, but common criminals are still responsible for most of the murders. In four years, there have been 3,000 terrorist related killings in the south. Nationwide, there are 5-6,000 murders a year nationwide. But the terrorist killings in the south create a murder rate down there that is four times the national average.

The south always had a higher murder rate, largely because of the gang activity (mostly smuggling and drugs). The Islamic terrorists are also racist, increasing their attacks during Chinese New Years (in February) and concentrating attacks on Thais of Chinese ancestry (who own a lot of shops and businesses in the south.) The U.S. has warned its citizens to avoid that south, because of the higher rate of illegal activity (terrorism and criminal gangs).

The Islamic militant violence is nothing new in the south. There was a major outbreak in the 1970s. But then it died down, but did not completely go away. As recently as 2000, there were only eight clashes with Islamic militants in the south, causing ten deaths for the entire year. Since then, the number of incidents per year has grown, to about 35 annually. But in 2004, there were 900 incidents, and in 2005 there were be twice as many. The big problem in the south is that no organization publicly takes credit for the attacks, and no one offers to negotiate. The three southern provinces, and most of their two million inhabitants, are different in terms of ethnicity (southerners are Malay) and religion (Moslem) from the other 95 percent of Thais (who are ethnic Thais and Buddhist). This is the core problem, and the main reason for the violence. The government is trying to figure out how much money it will take to calm things down, and which influential people in the south can be paid off, and shut down the violence.

 

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