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Insurgency

Thailand’s Southern Insurgency – who’s fighting who?

Tim Newton

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Trouble in the ‘south’. Attacks against civilians and rangers. Insurgents attack Thai soldiers – the sorts of headlines that people have read about Thailand’s southern conflict for the past 70 years or so.

Thaiger readers may wonder who’s fighting who, and why. The area has been coined the ‘deep south’ or the ‘restive south’ and has become, statistically, a more bloody conflict than the situation on the Gaza Peninsula in the middle east – it just gets a lot less international coverage.

Where is the ‘south’? The three Thai provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and sometimes Songkhla, are the locations where most of the violence takes place, all near or bordering Malaysia. The border, usually fluid with tourists and local trade, are now closed due to the current Covid situation.

Thailand's Southern Insurgency - who's fighting who? | News by Thaiger

Despite successive Thai and Malaysian governments throwing words and resources at the problem, very little has been done to reduce the spate of violence, usually affecting southern civilians as well.

The South Thailand insurgency (Thai: ความไม่สงบในชายแดนภาคใต้ของประเทศไทย; Malay: Pemberontakan di Selatan Thailand) is an ongoing conflict centered around southern Thailand’s disputed border region with Malaysia. Although there’s been bubbling discontent around the region since the start of the 20th century, it emerged as a serious issue for the Malaysian and Thai governments in 1948 as an ethnic and religious separatist insurgency in the historical Malay Patani region.

It has become a more complex ‘land grab’, and increasingly violent since the early 2000s due to drug cartels, oil smuggling networks, and occasionally even pirates.

The former Sultanate of Patani, which included the southern Thai provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, also known as the three Southern Border Provinces (SBP), as well as parts of neighbouring Songkhla province and the northeastern part of Malaysia (Kelantan), was conquered and, except for Kelantan, has been governed by, Thailand (formerly The Kingdom Siam) since 1785.

Although low-level separatist violence had occurred in the region for decades, the campaign escalated after 2001, with a major recurrence in 2004, and has occasionally spilled over into other provinces. Incidents blamed on southern insurgents, including bombings, have reached as far as the capital Bangkok and the holiday island Phuket.

In 2005, PM Thaksin Shinawatra assumed wide ranging emergency powers to deal with the southern violence, but his actions served only to escalate the insurgency. In September 2006, Thaksin was ousted in one of Thailand’s periodic military coups.

The subsequent junta implemented a major policy shift, replacing Thaksin’s earlier approach with a campaign to win over the “hearts and minds” of the insurgents. That didn’t have much effect either.

Despite little progress in curbing the violence, the junta declared that security was improving and that peace would come to the region by 2008. By March of that year, however, the death toll had surpassed 3,000.

During the Democrat-led government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya noted a “sense of optimism,” but by the end of 2010 insurgency-related violence had increased, confounding the government’s optimism. Finally in March 2011, the government conceded that violence was increasing and could not be solved in a few months.

Local leaders have persistently demanded at least a level of autonomy from Thailand for the Patani region and some of the separatist insurgent movements have made a series of demands for peace talks and negotiations. However, these groups have been largely sidelined by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Koordinasi (BRN-C), the Muslim fundamentalist group currently spearheading the insurgency. The BRN-C has as its announced aim to make southern Thailand ungovernable and it has largely been successful.

Estimates of the strength of the insurgency vary greatly. In 2004 General Pallop Pinmanee claimed that there were only 500 hardcore ‘jihadists’. Other estimates say there as many as 15,000 armed insurgents. Around 2004 some Thai analysts believed that foreign Islamic terrorist groups were infiltrating the area, and that foreign funds and arms were being brought in, though again, such claims were balanced by an equally large body of opinion suggesting this remains a distinctly local conflict.

Is it safe to travel through Thailand’s south? Mostly, yes. There is a lot of security and patrols around the area these days and the attacks are relatively rare. The Thai government have much better intel about possible attacks than in the past and react quickly to any potential security problems.

Over 6,500 people died and almost 12,000 were injured between 2004 and 2015 in a formerly ethnic separatist insurgency, which has currently been taken over by hard-line jihadis and pitted them against both the Thai-speaking Buddhist minority and local Muslims who have a moderate approach or who support the Thai government.

You can read another aspect of the southern conflict from The Thaiger…

Boom boom on the border – Thailand’s unlikely red-light district

For a timeline of major events in the Southern Insurgency, click HERE.

 

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ynwaps

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 7:08 pm

    Might want to learn from China to give woman in the south more opportunity. I’m sure something like a military mon4rchy would do a great job.

  2. Avatar

    Gosport

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    I been to Songkhla some years ago. Pity to learn 6500 death in 10 years time.

  3. Avatar

    Mister Stretch

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 8:01 am

    That 6500 number for 2015 was on the first page of Google Search.

    If we actually looked to see where we stand today, instead of 6 years ago, “…there have been 7,224 deaths and 13,427 injuries … 2004 to February 2021, according to the Deep South Watch Database.”

    Someone once said the greatest secret in the world is on page two of Google.

    I live in the Deep South, and neither I nor my Thai wife, have the courage to travel through those provinces. I did it a few times when working in Malaysia and coming home on weekends. 4 hours of watching the van driver and the front-seat passenger intensely look for ambushes and IEDs, combined with a heavy military presence, was enough to convince me I didn’t want to do that again.

    Southern Thais seem to be very angry and annoyed with the violence, especially when it spills out into other provinces. In conversations with them, they tell me that the violence isn’t going to change the government’s position, it’s just killing innocent people for nothing.

    I think they’re right. Since this annexation occurred in 1782, chances are the government isn’t giving up that area, and Malaysia has already said, “We don’t want you.”

    It’s an insurgency with no hope of getting what they want. What a waste of effort and life.

  4. Avatar

    Hector

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 9:00 am

    To understand the war in the south, one must be aware of economic and geopolitical interests.

    The conflict is linked to the Kra Canal, to the war between the Chinese and the Americans.

    Thaksin did what the Americans expected…

    The better informed are aware of the connections with the Rohingya conflict in Myanmar and with the Uyghurs in China, but unfortunately, it is not on this pro-US propaganda site that we can develop.

    • Thaiger

      Thaiger

      Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 10:54 am

      The Thaiger is a “pro-US propaganda site”?

  5. Avatar

    Shishi

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    It seems The Thaiger is under Wumao commies watch lol

  6. Avatar

    Centaur

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    @Mister Stretch – I have lived full-time in one of the three provinces for the last 5 years. It’s not as dangerous as the media and many Thai and farang people want you to believe. But living here, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times and to anticipate situations that could arise by not being careful.
    In general, the towns are safe from violence, both during day- and nighttime, but it’s not advisable for a newbie to go out at night in the countryside. It helps if you can speak some words of Malay and know some Islamic greetings. Still, it’s not half as bad as people think.

  7. Avatar

    ynwaps

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    Obviously, see last report about Myanmar not even reporting about what Russia/ China proposed, just saying the UN Declined the idea. Learn to report more than one side and you’ll look more credible.

  8. Avatar

    Michael

    Monday, May 3, 2021 at 1:01 am

    @Thaiger – Everyone mainly sees what they want to believe themselves.

    But be happy that The Thaiger is not classified in the category “mainstream media”. Nothing is so bad as mainstream media.

  9. Avatar

    Michael

    Monday, May 3, 2021 at 1:03 am

    @ynwaps – You can explain it here. Usually things proposed by Russia/China are a bad idea. But I am curious about what makes it so interesting…

  10. Avatar

    Joe Nyomozo

    Monday, May 3, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Hard to belive that a Government can’t get insurgency under control! Like Nigeria where Boko Haram seem to operate with relative imutnity kidnapping children and running amok! I would like to think if something would happen in my country we would hunt them down like rabbid dogs!

  11. Avatar

    J West

    Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    @Centaur – 55555…really funny…you describe how dangerous it is…complete with sneaking past nocturnal pit falls and knowing Muslim passwords…and then divide it by two to say it’s ” not that bad”? It’s a bit like the guy who loses his arms in an accident and boasts about being able to get around just fine.

  12. Avatar

    Centaur

    Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    @J West – I’m not saying it is not dangerous, just that you should always be attentive wherever you are.
    I have embraced Islam shortly after moving here though and feel that whatever happens it is God’s and only His will. I will be fine insh’allah.

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in South Thailand. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Insurgency

Suspected insurgent killed in gunfire exchange with rangers in Thailand’s deep south

Tanutam Thawan

Published

on

Photo via Facebook/ คนรักทหารพราน

A suspected insurgent was shot and killed in a gunfire exchange with Thai rangers in Narathawit, a province in Thailand’s deep south by the Malaysian border plagued with violence from the religious separatist insurgency. 2 other men were arrested after the clash with rangers in the Bacho district this morning. Another suspected insurgent is on the run.

Rangers got a tip that 4 insurgents were hiding out at a home in the district. The rangers surround the home at around 5am this morning. The men inside the home fired shots at rangers, shooting a 28 year old soldier in the wrist. The gunfire exchange lasted about 10 minutes. A suspect, identified as Sufian Yoso, managed to escape out the back of the home.

Rangers searched the area and found the body of Suraidin Katae, also known as Madong, who had a warrant out for his arrest. Suspected insurgents Ku-afnan and Ku-amran Kupama, who are brothers, were arrested. Rangers say the men had a 11mm pistol and an AK102 rifle.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Insurgency

Thai ranger and 2 suspected insurgents killed in Thailand’s deep south

Tanutam Thawan

Published

on

Photo via Facebook/กรมทหารพรานที่ 47

In the ongoing violence from the Southern Thailand insurgency, 2 suspected insurgents and a Thai ranger were killed in a clash between security forces and an armed rebel group in Yala’s Krong Pinang district. Known as Thailand’s “deep south,” the provinces Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, along the Malaysia border, have been plagued with violence for years due to the religious separatist insurgency.

Law enforcement officers had received a tip that suspected insurgents, who were wanted on court warrants, were staying in the Batu Buela and Bae Chaeng villages. A team of police and soldiers, along with some civilians, were deployed to the villages. 30 year old Wan Asan Asu, who had a warrant out for his arrest, surrendered to officers while other suspected insurgents responded with gunfire.

Shots were fired from both sides for about 2 hours. Nopparit Sukson, a ranger of the Yala-based 47th Ranger Regiment, was killed in the clash. Officers searched the area after the gunfire exchange and found the bodies of 2 men who had warrants out for their arrest. Each had an AK47 rifle and one of them also had a pistol.

More officers have been called to help clear the area today.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Insurgency

Former negotiator says peace in Thailand’s deep south can be reached with ongoing discussions

Tanutam Thawan

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By

A roadside bomb attack in Yala last month / Photo via Facebook/ศูนย์แม่หลวง ปัตตานี

With the ongoing violence from the religious separatist insurgency in Thailand’s deep south, a former member of the Thai negotiating team says the discussions between the government and Malay-Muslim dissidents need to continue to bring peace and unity.

The Southern provinces Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat near Malaysia have been plagued with violence for years. Since the separatist movement in Thailand’s deep south re-emerged in 2004, there have been 7,224 deaths and 13,427 injuries linked to the conflict from early 2004 to February 2021, according to the Deep South Watch Database.

Just last night, a 31 year old police officer in Yala was killed in an explosion after suspected militants threw a pipe bomb at a police observation post in the Raman district. Another officer, who is 29 years old, was injured in the blast.

Saturday morning in Pattani, 3 family members driving through the area were attacked by suspected insurgents. Shots were fired at the family’s car and a bullet hit the driver’s head, killing him. Reports say the attackers then poured petrol on the vehicle and set it on fire. One family member was able to flee the scene before the car erupted in flames.

Former deputy permanent-secretary for defence, Nipat Thonglek, who had served as an appointed member of the Thai negotiating team, says he’s optimistic about the process of achieving peace in the South. He says there must be ongoing discussions to reach resolutions and agreements.

“From my experience when I had the opportunity to attend meetings with these dissidents….. all want to see their people in the deep South enjoy a good quality of life and strong health so they will be better able to spend their lives normally… They want to see their children have a better education and their people get the sleep they need each night and have enough food to eat.”

In the past, Nipat had negotiated with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, an Islamic organisation in the area known as the leader of the Southern Thailand insurgency, to set up safety zones that were free from violence for 15 days. He says his work in the past set the basis for the government’s current plan to declare safety zones.

“I see the number of attacks and casualties is falling when compared with past years.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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