Thailand: We Are Few But Mighty

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October 7, 2009: In the south, police are finding, upon investigation, that many violent events thought to be the work of Islamic terrorists, were more drug and criminal gang related. The gangs have always been there, smuggling drugs, women and other items across the border into, or out of, Malaysia. Many police commanders believe that concentrating more on the gangs, rather than the shadowy Islamic radical groups, will more quickly end the unrest. Drugs, in particular, are frequently found to be a factor in the violence. Often, young men, with weapons, get high and just decide to go and attack someone they don't like.

The royalists (Yellow Shirts), despite being a minority (perhaps as little as a third of the population) are not going away. Because this group is backed by most of the newly (in the last few decades) middle class, the old coalition of the aristocracy and devoted fans of the king, has been augmented by many highly educated and skilled activists. The populists have the numbers, but the royalists have the money, skills and tend to live in the urban areas. Many Thais fear a civil war over this power struggle, which began five years ago. No one knows when it will end.

Tension between Cambodia and Thailand, over a border dispute, is getting worse the longer it is unresolved. Recently, Cambodian troops were ordered to shoot first, and investigate later, if any Thais cross the border. Thai civilians and soldiers have accidentally crossed the border recently, at the scene of the dispute (a temple compound), and now this could be a spark for more intense fighting.

October 6, 2009: Islamic terrorists made four attacks, in the last 48 hours,  in towns on the Malaysian border, killing four and wounding over 70. Buddhists were the main targets and victims.

September 26, 2009:  Islamic terrorists killed three Moslems in the south. The victims were pro-government, and the terrorists are particularly hostile to Moslems who do not support the violence (and most Moslems do not).

September 25, 2009: The Defense Ministry ordered all members of the military to seek out web sites and local radio stations that were saying disrespectful things about the king. This is against the law in Thailand, and often prosecuted. Since the king just come out of the hospital, the military leaders see an opportunity to get the troops enthused about finding those who disrespect the king.

September 22, 2009: Despite the recession, the government is trying to find $300 million to buy the police new riot gear, and the army new equipment to replace old and obsolete items. Getting the money out of the overall budget may be impossible, but the government knows that just making the effort scores points with the military and national police.

 

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