Thailand: Angry And Impatient

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March 27, 2018: The separatist/Islamic terrorist violence in the south continues to decline but efforts to achieve a permanent fix for the resentment of a Moslem majority population in the three southern provinces remains out of reach. This is all mainly about cultural differences (religion, ethnicity). Thailand has few (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 ethnic Tai and the southern Moslems are nearly all ethnic Malays. The "terrorists" are a combination of Islamic radicals, Malay nationalists 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 the current decline in violence.

There are other problems. The Moslem fanatics are hostile to secular education while most Moslems in the three provinces want their children to get a secular education because that is obviously the key to a better life for the kids. Moslem majority Malaysia next door encourages secular education and Moslem Malaysians have done well as a result. Because of the lack of education the southern Thai Moslems have been unable to make the most of over two decades of dramatic economic growth in Thailand. For over a decade the Thai government (elected and military) has concentrated on education and economic development in the south while also improving security. Progress has been made but it has been slow, as these changes usually are.

Perspective

Opinion surveys show most Thais believe corruption has gotten worse since 2014 coup. This is important because one of the main reasons the military took over this time was to deal with corruption. At this time the popular perception is that the military rulers have failed at this. The 2017 international corruption ratings show the world that Thailand is not making much progress and is stuck near the bottom (96 out of 180 nations compared with 101 out of 176 nations in 2016) of international standings. Corruption in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations ( usually Syria/14, South Sudan/12 and Somalia/9 ) have a rating of under 15 while of the least corrupt (New Zealand and Denmark) are over 85. African nations are the most corrupt, followed by Middle Eastern ones. In Southeast Asia Thailand has long had problems with corruption and the current military effort to fix that is not working. The current Thailand score is 37 (versus 35 in 2016) compared to 46 (45) for Malaysia, 29 (30) for Laos, 30 (28) for Burma, 63 (61) for Taiwan, 34 (35) for the Philippines, 40 (40) for India, 29 (29) for Russia, 54 (53) for South Korea, 17 (12) for North Korea, 35 (33) for Vietnam, 84 (84) for Singapore, 73 (72) for Japan, 37 (37) for Indonesia, 77 (79) for Australia, 38 (36) for Sri Lanka, 33 (36) for the Maldives, 41 (40) for China, 32 (32) for Pakistan, 28 (26) for Bangladesh, 30 (29) for Iran, 15 (15) for Afghanistan, 71 (66) for the UAE (United Arab Emirates), 62 (64) for Israel, 75 (74) for the United States, 27 (28) for Nigeria, 43 (45) for South Africa, 18 (17) for Iraq, 40 (41) for Turkey, 49 (46) for Saudi Arabia and 28 (28) for Lebanon. A lower corruption score is common with nations in economic trouble and problems dealing with Islamic terrorism and crime in general. The Thai corruption score has not changed much since 2012, when it was also 37. It went as high as 38 in 2014.

In addition to a bad rating in the corruption survey Thailand did about the same in the UN sponsored World Happiness Index, coming in at number 46. The top ten are all the usual suspects (Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia) and then comes Israel, the happiest country in the Middle East as well as being the most powerful militarily and one of the least corrupt. The rest of the rankings are similar to the corruption survey. The U.S. is at 18th place, Malaysia at 35, Philippines at 71, Indonesia at 96, Burma at 130, UAE at 2o, Saudi Arabia at 33, Kuwait at 45, Russia at 59, Japan at 54, Libya at 70, Turkey at 74, Jordan at 90, China at 86, Pakistan at 75, Venezuela at 102, Lebanon at 88, Somalia at 98, Palestinian Territories at 104, Egypt at 122, Iran at 106, Iraq at 117, Bangladesh at 115, India at 133, Afghanistan at 145, Yemen at 152, Syria at 150 and at 156 (last place) Burundi. Communist dictatorships like North Korea and Cuba block access to data needed for the survey and were not rated.

March 26, 2018: A government investigation into the Educations Ministry found corruption everywhere. This came as no surprise but the fact that the military government tolerated publication of details was.

March 24, 2018: In the capital a large demonstration in front of Army Headquarters demanded that the army concentrate on defending the country not trying to rule it by supporting the military government. The demonstrators were taking advantage of the fact that many members of the army would prefer the return of democracy. Most Thais see this military government (like the many others since World War II) more about taking good care of the senior military leadership and not Thailand as a whole. The demonstrations today got attention. The military later threatened to delay the frequently delayed elections once more because of this example of disorder.

March 16, 2018: Malaysia and Thailand agreed to build a new border wall along 11 kilometers of the Malaysian border in Thailand’s Songkhla province. This wall will block some of the most frequently used drug smuggling routes. This is the latest effort to use border walls along the Malaysia-Thai border to inhibit smuggling. These border wall efforts go back to the 1970s. Since then there have been additional agreements. Back in mid-2016 Malaysia agreed to cooperate in building and maintaining a security fence along 245 kilometers of the 640 kilometer border with Thailand. Currently property owners are responsible for border fences along the border but many land owners don’t bother or work for smugglers to allow illegal traffic via their property. The 2106 agreement closed that loophole.

 

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