Thailand: New King, New Government, New China

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January 5, 2017: In the south separatist violence continues to decline. For 2016 the decline was 11 percent compared to 2015. In that year the decline was 16 percent over 2014. The most violent year was 2005 when there were over 2,100 violent incidents. By 2016 the violence had declined by over 60 percent compared to 2005. Despite the decline in violence the war against Islamic terrorists and separatists in the south grinds on. So far (since 2004) the death rate from Islamic terrorism is under ten dead per 100,000 population and has averaged about 23 over 12 years of violence. Back in 2005 the violence in the south was about the same level as Afghanistan but now the violent death rate is a little over twice the national rate (which is a bit lower than the rate in the United States). The Thai Islamic terrorists have hurt their cause by violently opposing secular education, and have destroyed or heavily damaged nearly a thousand schools so far. This makes the militants less popular, which makes it easier to recruit more informers and village security volunteers among the Moslem population.

The military government is aware of how unpopular their rule is and are striving to figure out how to stay in power permanently without being a military government. Changing the constitution is a start and the military government is depending on China to help them out. It was not surprising that the military government developed close ties with China, which is the regional expert in keeping an unpopular dictatorship in power. So China has been quietly supplying help in controlling the Thai media, especially the Internet. The military government cannot get away with doing this openly, as the Chinese communists do, so they have to quietly monitor the Internet and then arrest suspected “troublemakers” and charge them with one of a growing list of fictional offenses. The Thai government repays China by refusing to admit anyone into the country that the Chinese Communist government does not approve of. In late 2016 the government admitted that they maintain a secret blacklist of individuals and groups who are to be taken into custody if they try to enter Thailand and, if China requests, sent back to China (even if the blacklisted travelers are not citizens of China). The Thai military government also publically backs Chinese claims to the South China Sea. Most Thais oppose Chinese territorial claims and are uncomfortable about being this cooperative with their overbearing neighbor. China is now the third largest foreign investor in Thailand and is encouraging Chinese firms seeking overseas locations for production facilities to pay special attention to Thailand (which is not as cheap as nearby Vietnam, Burma or Cambodia but is now officially recognized inside China as more “Chinese friendly.”)

January 4, 2017: The military government confirmed that, even with the new king installed, there will still be, as promised, new elections in 2017. That will come with a new constitution imposed by the military, in an effort to make it more difficult for an elected government to control the military. It is generally agreed that this will prolong the political unrest, not settle it. Some politicians had called for elections to be delayed until 2018 so that details of the new constitution could be worked out. Most Thais want new elections, so they can get rid of the military government that seized power in 2014.

December 29, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) a roadside bomb was used against a police vehicle but did not injure anyone. Elsewhere in the province a civilian was wounded in a shooting apparently related to the Islamic terrorism.

December 21, 2016: In Malaysia three days of peace talks with Malay separatists in the three southern Moslem provinces achieved little. This was what happened during the last round of talks in September. The government have gone ahead with economic investment and improving education and security in general. This includes creating a new combined headquarters to coordinate all operations down there. The new organization is officially called the “Steering Committee for Solving Southern Border Provinces' Problems”. The new committee is supposed to eliminate the problems with different federal agencies operating at cross-purposes with each other. Meanwhile the government pointed out that progress was being made and terrorist incidents in the three provinces continues to decline and insisted that the growing incidence of terror attacks in nearby provinces was not related to the Islamic terrorism in the far south. The police apparently do not agree but are apparently under orders to keep quiet about that. Most of the people in the three provinces are hostile to the military government and apparently is waiting for a new elected government to take over before supporting serious peace talks. The southern three provinces voted against the proposed new constitution, despite the vote manipulation that was going on.

December 12, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) four border police were wounded when a bomb went off near their vehicle.

December 9, 2016: In the south (Chiang Mai province) soldiers, acting on a tip, intercepted about a dozen drug smugglers from Burma and ordered them to stop. The smugglers opened fire and after a fifteen minute gun battle six of the smugglers dead, two wounded and captured and several others flee. Troops recovered 554,000 methamphetamine pills. 30 kg (66 pounds) of heroin and one kg of opium. Thailand continues having problems with the drug trade in neighboring Burma, where the northern tribes fight to resist government efforts to suppress the drug trade. The largest state in the north (Shan state) has illegal drugs as the mainstay of the economy. The Burmese methamphetamine is a regional problem and in each of the last few years over a billion dollars in meth (usually in pill form) was seized in neighboring countries. From 2008 to 2012 seizures grew seven fold (to 227 million doses of methamphetamine, worth about $1.3 billion). Methamphetamine is the most popular drug in Southeast Asia and there are believed to be nearly a million meth addicts in Thailand, plus many tourists who indulge. Most (nearly half) of the seized pills are taken in China, followed by Thailand and most of it is coming from meth labs in northern Burma. The Burmese meth has become hugely popular in China, which is pressuring the Burmese government to do more about the problem and that has resulted in more police activity up there, but not enough to put a dent in the drug business.

December 6, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) there were six civilian deaths resulting from three separate Islamic terrorist incidents. Most of the dead were local Moslems being attacked by the Islamic terrorists trying to reduce civilian cooperation with the counter-terrorism efforts.

November 30, 2016: In the south (Yala province) one soldier was killed and four wounded by a roadside bomb.

November 26, 2016: In the south (Yala province) a pregnant woman was shot dead, apparently by Islamic terrorists.

 

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