Thailand: Gangsters Who Do A Little Islamic Terrorism On The Side

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February 6, 2016: The military continues to be vague about exactly when they will once more allow elections and the return of democracy. Best estimate now is late 2017, maybe. There is growing foreign pressure from neighbors (except China) and the West. Worse since September 2015 the pro-democracy populists (the “red shirts”) have largely ceased demonstrations. The populists did so to demonstrate that there was no “violent opposition” to justify continued military rule. The red shirts are waiting for the military government to allow elections which is what Thai military governments all eventually do. The May 2014 coup came after months of political protests in the capital and those tensions remain but the army is definitely in control. Despite that the economy is not doing as well as people expect and the military government is blamed. In the past this sort of thing played a large role in persuading the generals to allow elections again and that seems to be happening again.

Despite the eventual return of democracy there will still be unresolved problems. The royalist and nationalist politicians and parties (yellow shirts) that lost the national elections in 2011 used their control of the courts and the military to outlaw the elected government after which the army stepped in to “keep the peace”. Most Thais are fed up with the coups. There have been twelve of them in the last 80 years (since a constitutional monarchy replaced the centuries old absolute monarchy). The royals have learned to keep their heads down during the coups, even though the military has always been staunchly royalist. Where the army may run into problems this time is with their vaguely defined plans to enact “reforms” and amend the constitution. Unless the army does the impossible, and shuts down access to social media sites like Facebook, popular resistance to whatever the proposed reforms are will have an Internet platform on which to spread and grow. Troops have orders to arrest anyone who appears to be leading resistance to the coup or “causing trouble”, but the number of anti-coup activists is so widespread that trying to decapitate the opposition by taking most leaders out of action will not work. The opposition has plenty of competent replacements for lost leaders and would win another election.

In the south the peace talks are still on hold. Despite that informal discussions and communicating continues. The government monitors the mood down south and reports that the Moslem majority there is generally repelled by the actions of major Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Very few, if any, Thai Moslems have joined ISIL although a few Malaysians Moslems have. Meanwhile the violence down south continues to decline. Islamic terrorist bombings were down 49 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. The 2015 bombing activity was 65 percent less than 2007, the peak year for violence in the Moslem south. The violence has been going on since 2004 and most Moslems in the south are fed up but there are still a few hard core violent separatists who keep at it.

February 5, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) police found what appeared to be a defective rocket that had been launched from a nearby field. It was initially assumed the target was a nearby military base. The rocket hit a house outside the base and troops came to disable the warhead and take it away. Later analysis concluded that this rocket was probably not fired at a military base but was a test that failed. This dud rocket was similar to one discovered in nearby Pattani province in January.

February 3, 2016: Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to increase military cooperation in counter-terrorism matters. The two nations already share intelligence in this area. The new agreement includes joint training and officer and troops exchanges (for training in the other country).

February 2, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) a paramilitary soldiers was killed when his vehicle was fired on. His female passenger was wounded. Police are unclear if this was about a personal dispute or Islamic terrorists.

January 30, 2016: The navy has ordered another OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel). The first of these 2,500 ton ships entered service in 2013. Built under license in Thailand, the new OPV should enter service by 2019.

January 29, 2016: The military government released the new constitution they want the nation to vote on in July. Like the draft constitution released in late 2015 and rejected, the new draft still gives the military more power, all in the name of national defense. The military does not say what it will do if voters reject this draft in July.

January 28, 2016: Islamic terrorists in Pattaini have issued warnings to civilians to stay away from military bases because rockets are being fired at them. The army reports no such attacks but it is possible that Islamic terrorists did fire locally made rockets at bases and the rockets were duds that did not reach the base and their warhead did not explode. Security forces recently found a crude pipe bomb near a base that might have been part of a poorly made rocket.

January 21, 2016: The army has arrested four people for organizing a December demonstration to call attention to accusations of corruption in an army construction project. The military government justifies its government takeover with promises to reduce corruption (among other things). But in the last year evidence of corruption by military personnel have proliferated. Since they are running the government the military has control over a lot more spending than usual and it is having its normal (for Thailand) impact on many officers. The army does not want any publicity about this.

January 20, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) a bomb went off on a farm but there were no casualties.

January 18, 2016: In the south (Yala province) a Moslem couple were ambushed by gunmen and shot dead. Since 2010 most of the casualties are now soldiers and police followed by Moslem civilians who are being terrorized to halt cooperation with the police. That is not working and separatist leaders are trying to get the Islamic terrorists to halt the lethal threats to Moslems.

Just north of the three Moslem provinces (Songkhla province) someone threw a grenade into a restaurant, leaving one civilian dead and seven wounded. Later another bomb went off outside the restaurant but there were no injuries. Only about 25 percent of the people in Songkhla are Moslems but they speak Thai rather than Malay and have not shown any support for Moslem separatism. Despite that police earlier warned that some of the Islamic terrorists to the south have discussed carrying out attacks in nearby non-Moslem provinces.

January 16, 2016: Neighboring Malaysia arrested four more suspected ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) supporters. This in reaction to recent ISIL terror attacks in neighboring Indonesia. Some of the ISIL suspects had pro-ISIL documents and a few admitted to planning attacks in Malaysia. Since 2015 Thailand has shared intelligence on Islamic terrorists with Malaysia, the only majority Moslem nation bordering Thailand. Malaysia has not had as much Islamic terrorist activity as most other Islamic nations, but police intelligence estimates that at least a hundred Malaysians have gone to fight for ISIL in Syria and about 50,000 (one in 360) of the 18 million Malaysian Moslems supports ISIL. So despite a comparative absence of Islamic terrorism in Malaysia and Thailand, the sentiment for it is there among a significant minority. In December 2015 Malaysian police arrested a Malaysian student who had gone to Syria and returned and sought to discover exactly what he was doing there. There have been about 25 similar arrests since 2013. Thailand has fewer (about three million) Moslems and while some of the separatist Moslems in the south (where most live) have tried to link their independence efforts to religion, it’s mostly about ethnic differences because 95 percent of Thais are Tai and the southern Moslems are nearly all Malays.

January 12, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) a police commander was shot dead and a police officer wounded by unidentified gunmen. It is unclear if the shooters were gangsters or Islamic terrorists. There are a lot more gangsters than Islamic terrorists in the south and both groups often use the same tactics. Actually, many of the Islamic terrorists down there are gangsters who do a little Islamic terrorism on the side.

January 11, 2016: The army has ordered four Skyguard 3 short range anti-aircraft systems.

 

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