Thailand: The Thought Troopers Are Kept Busy

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May 18, 2016: Since March the army has been carrying out orders to harass or arrest anyone spreading “confusing ideas” about the August 7 national referendum on a new constitution. This order, not surprisingly, proved to be very unpopular, especially on the Internet. The new constitution gives the military more power, all in the name of national defense. Most Thais, and even the UN, have criticized granting the troops martial law type authority just because the generals fear public criticism of a new constitution that gives the military more power. Even without those new powers troops are hunting down and arresting those who post criticism (real or imagined) of the military or the monarchy. There is general agreement within the military that the public is more hostile to the military than ever before and there is likely to be a backlash once democracy is restored. The new constitution is supposed to protect the military because the generals believe they have enough supporters to block a later effort to revoke the new constitution. The Thai generals also note what is happening next door in Burma, where the military allowed elections in 2011 after nearly fifty years of military rule. Despite “guarantees” in the new Burmese constitution most Burmese still want to punish their generals for crimes committed during decades of military rule and continuing bad behavior by active and retired officers. The Thai generals have promised new elections in 2017 if the new constitution is approved. What happens if the constitution is not approved is less certain.

Meanwhile the military government has established contact with some of the separatist groups in the three largely Moslem provinces in the south. While discussions have been held recently both sides admit that no progress has been made. Worse only some of the separatist groups that are willing to discuss a peace deal. Then again some of the separatist groups are still willing to discuss terms for talks and peace but can find no common ground with the military government.

May 17, 2016: The army wants to buy twelve Russian Mi-17V5 helicopters but the government is unsure that the money ($280 million) can be found in the budget quickly enough. As is usually the custom during periods of military rule, a lot of new military equipment is ordered. While the next civilian government can cancel some of these orders they usually cannot get them all. This is because the military knows to order stuff that can be delivered (and paid for) quickly. The Russians and Chinese can deliver fast enough for this and the prices are low. Thus the army has already ordered 28 MBT-3000 tanks from China. These are export models of the Type 98/99 tanks, the most modern China has. Even so, the Type 98/99 is basically an improved Russian T-62 that sells for about $5.4 million each. If the army is satisfied with the MBT-3000 it wants to buy as many as 150.

May 16, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) a roadside bomb wounded four soldiers. This was the first day of school and the troops were escorting teachers to work. Since 2004 Islamic terrorists in the south have killed some 200 teachers and burned or blown up over 300 schools. The Islamic terrorists oppose secular education and especially non-Moslem teachers. Low educations levels in the Moslem south means most of the teachers are Buddhists recruited from the wealthier and better educated north. The "terrorists" are a combination of Islamic radicals (most of the two million people in the three southern provinces are Moslem), Malay nationalists (nearly all the Moslems are ethnic Malay, not Thai) and gangsters (smuggling has long been a big business down there). The ethnic Thai majority refused (as they usually do) to back down in the face of Malay Moslem violence. After years of futile violence the Moslem minority became increasingly hostile to the Islamic terrorists, and more frequently cooperating with the police. This happened gradually as it became obvious that the Thai government was never going to give in. As a result of this, the militants turned on the Moslem civilians, which was a downward spiral that is gradually destroying the remaining popular support they have. That led to a decline in violence over the last few years.

May 12, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) three men were shot dead in two incidents. Both attacks were attributed to Islamic terrorists.

May 9, 2016: The navy received the first two of five H145 helicopters it had ordered from Airbus. The army has also ordered six of these.

May 8, 2016: In the south (Yala Province) two Islamic terrorist attacks left one dead and five wounded.

May 3, 2016: The navy has hired a French firm (Thales) to upgrade the electronics in two of its mine hunter ships and an offshore patrol boat.

May 2, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) one soldier was killed when three troops investigated a report that several men seemed to be planting a bomb next to a rural road. The bomb was found but went off before it could be disabled.

April 28, 2016: In the south (Yala Province) one soldier was killed and four wounded by a roadside bomb.

April 25, 2016: In the south three Islamic terror attacks left two dead and 13 wounded. In Narathiwat province two separate bomb attacks left 13 wounded. In Yala province two pro-government civilians were shot dead.

April 24, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) a local defense volunteer was shot dead while returning from work. The attacker was believed to be an Islamic terrorists but police are also investigating other enemies the man had.

 

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