Taking the insurgency by storm: Southern Thailand’s military withdrawal sets off in full swing

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

The forthcoming military withdrawal in the southern region of Thailand, which has seen 19 years of insurgent unrest, is currently in its initial phase, according to Fourth Region Army commander, Lt. Gen. Santi Sakuntanak. The four-year plan aims to gradually decrease military presence and remove the state of emergency that has been prevalent in the area.

Since 2004, Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, along with certain sections of Songkhla, have been in a state of upheaval due to various kinds of civil unrest. This turmoil has had detrimental impacts on the lives of the people, the economy and the social fabric of the region. A planned military withdrawal from these areas is anticipated to bring some relief and push for normalization.

The turmoil first erupted in January 2004 when militants stormed the 4th Development Battalion at the Kromluang Narathiwat Ratchanakarin military camp in Narathiwat’s Cho Airong district, pilfering a significant amount of firearms. This event served as a precursor to a rash of attacks and fuelled a separatist movement seeking autonomy. Despite the various tactics employed by state authorities to stifle the unrest, their efforts proved unsuccessful. Lt Gen Santi said…

“During the initial six years of turmoil from 2004 to 2010, the focal point of the military was to alleviate security concerns and halt insurgent attacks.”

To accomplish this, they deployed additional troops drafted from the First, Second and Third Army regions to reinforce the Fourth Army region positioned in the Deep South.

A separate peacekeeping contingent was also dispatched, whose responsibilities included tracking insurgent activities across 217 active villages. They were tasked with earning the trust of residents, a crucial factor contributing to the restoration of peace.

From 2011 onwards, Lt. Gen. Santi revealed that a 1,700-strong combined force comprised of non-military officials and police officers was delegated to uphold safety measures across 37 districts in the southern region. To bolster the ongoing pacification efforts, another 7,000 defence volunteers were dispatched across various tambons reported Bangkok Post.

As more police officers and defence officials stepped in, the number of soldiers started to dwindle correspondingly with the troops gradually being recalled back to their respective army regions. The strategic four-year military withdrawal programme aims to promote a favourable restoration of peace in the region.

South Thailand NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

Related Articles