Thailand: Another Religious War Breaks Out

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July 21, 2008: The Islamic terrorism in the south has diminished in the last year, and common criminals appear responsible for many of the murders. In four years, there have been 3,300 terrorist related killings in the south. Nationwide, there are 5-6,000 murders a year. Even with the recent reduction in Islamic violence in the south, the murder rate down there  is still 3-4 times the national average. In recent weeks, the number of attacks have increased, although the police believe this is just the result of a new Islamic terrorist cell operating. Most of the Islamic terrorism is the work of a few killers. As these are caught or killed, the attacks diminish. The police believe local criminal gangs (that control the smuggling across the Malaysian border) are encouraging the Islamic militants, as a way to keep the police busy. The police are accused of using their traditional methods (torture and threats against family members of missing suspects), and the police deny it (mainly, it is believed, just to placate the foreign media. Thai cops never seemed to care much what foreigners thought of them.) The 50,000 police and troops in the south are trying various tactics, including building up the local economy, more security patrols, and arming and organizing village security forces.

July 19, 2008: Cambodia and Thailand have moved more troops, plus mortars and artillery, to the vicinity of the disputed border temple of Preah Vihear.

July 18, 2008: In the south, a retired general (Chetta Thanacharo), who was also once defense minister admitted, he was behind the hoax video, where an imaginary Islamic terrorist group offered to negotiate a ceasefire in the south. Thanacharo said he did it in an attempt to get some peace talks going. No group in the south has admitted to being behind the ethnic and religious violence there. This has made it difficult to work out a peace deal.

July 15, 2008: Despite improved security, the government extended emergency rule for the Moslem south for another three months. These rules, which suspend many legal protections for suspected terrorists, were introduced three years ago.

A company (170 troops) of Thai infantry crossed the Cambodian border near the Preah Vihear  temple (which is right on the border). Thailand had seized the temple complex after World War II, when Cambodia was weak and disorganized. Back in 1962, an international court ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but Thailand insisted some nearby land (4.6 square kilometers worth) was theirs. The temple was built by a Cambodian king.  The dispute has simmered for decades, but earlier this year, Cambodia began pushing for more recognition that the temple was theirs. The Thais see this as a matter of national pride, and threatened Cambodia with military action. The 1200 year old temple is Hindu, dedicated to the god Shiva. Indians, and their Hindu religion, have long been present in Southeast Asia, and many Indian merchants and sailors married into the local culture (which is mostly Buddhist), but kept their Hindu religion alive. If it came to a war over the temple, Thailand would probably win. But international courts have consistently backed Cambodian claims.

July 10, 2008: Chinese and Thai special operations troops began three weeks of joint counter-terrorism exercises in northern Thailand. Over the last few years, China has been sponsoring these training sessions with most of their neighbors.

 

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