Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Jihad in Indochina

A little background research on the insurgency in Thailand's south turned up the little-known fact that it is Southeast Asia's deadliest insurgency. About 1,200 people have been killed in connection with it in the last decade but fully one thousand of those have been since 2004. Like most insurgencies, it has its roots in history; in disputes between the Kingdom of Siam and its Malay neighbor states to the south. It was exarcerbated by colonial politics. Even World War 2 played a role when the Muslim Malays of the south requested British help against Bangkok, which had allied itself with imperial Japan.

But things got stirred up again under the impetus of the worldwide Jihadi resurgence in conjunction with an apparent Thai mismanagement of the insurgency. Strongarm tactics were substituted for intelligence gathering, possibly because police preoccupation with corruption undermined any efficiency. In the meantime, a new jihadi cadre began forming in the madrasas of Pakistan. Media reports following up the involvement of Britons of Pakistani origin in the London bombings uncovered the fact that nearly a thousand Muslim of Thai nationality (Patani) were studying in madrasas in Pakistan.

Despite promises by the Pakistani government to end the practice, and fear of American monitoring, many of these Muslim Thias simply moved to madrasas in the wild North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. Since recent news reports have suggested that al-Qaeda has re-established itself in the NWFP provinces of Pakistan, making the potential connection between the Jihad and the insurgency in southern Thailand as direct as possible.

Recent events in Thailand have been moving at a rapid pace. The upsurge in the South was in partly behind the ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while he was attending the UN General Assembly session. The perception that the counterinsurgency lacked a political dimension may have prompted the appointment of a Muslim commander of the Thai Army, General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin. But that bought scant relief. A series of attacks forced the cancellation of New Years Day celebrations in the Thai capital. Not only did it prove a party-pooper, it unambiguously showed that the threat had moved out of the shadows of the south into the heart of Bangkok itself.

Six bombs were exploded nearly simultaneously across downtown Bangkok on New Years Eve as revelers began to turnout for dinner and the evening’s festivities. The first bomb exploded at the Victory Monument, an area crowded with food stalls, the terminus for small commuter vans from the northern districts. Subsequent bombings were at crowded locations, but not high profile ones and nowhere where the expat community and tourists would tend to congregate. These included two bombs in Klong Toey and in the parking lot of Bangkok’s largest Mall in an eastern district. The 6th bomb reportedly exploded in the movie theater in Bangkok’s newest and glitziest malls, the Siam Paragon.

Two more bombs were detonated just after midnight, this time in more heavily tourist areas. The first bomb exploded at a popular restaurant near the Pratunam Pier. Five people were wounded, including three foreigners, one of whom had his leg amputated. The second bomb went off in a pedestrian flyover that links two major malls, Central World and Gaesorn Plaza. A major concert that was supposed to take place outside Central World was earlier canceled. In addition, a suspected bomb was found in a crowded bar on Khao San road, the crowded backpacker quarter. A second bomb was found and disarmed at the Lumpini Night Bazaar.

It also demonstrated that despite the belated efforts by the Thai government at outreach, there was no magic bullet. The South Asia Analysis Group, a counterterror think tank concluded:

Hopes that the fact that the coup of September 19, 2006, was carried out by General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the first-ever Muslim head of the Thai army, would make the jihadi terrorists of the South amenable to Government moves for a reconciliation have been belied so far. In fact, since the Army seized power, the terrorists have further stepped up their acts of terrorism in the South, targeting not only schools and Buddhist monks, but also Muslims perceived as co-operating with the Government. Those familiar with the mentality of the jihadi terrorists as seen in other parts of the world would not have been surprised by the way the jihadis have failed to respond to the General's offer of talks. Jihadi terrorists look askance at a Muslim public servant, whom they perceive as a collaborator of infidels.

The recent Chinese New Year attacks all across the southern provinces may have been aimed at driving the ethnic Chinese out. But in itself, it was a simply a continuation of a wave of IED attacks and assassinations that have been sweeping across the area while Thai forces, now in attempting to reform themselves, are struggling to cope. The Counterterrorism Blog notes that attempts have recently been made on a Thai Royal Princess' helicopter in addition to numerous attacks on Thai military vehicles.

the number of large (10-15kg) bombs has increased. They are occurring several times a week, rather than once or twice a month.  ... Insurgents have also demonstrated greater proficiency with small arms. In mid-January several bombers engaged soldiers in a five-minute firefight after detonating an IED. The insurgents are more confident and are standing their ground longer. On 31 January, a sniper shot a police colonel in the head, severely wounding him. The colonel was part of an advance team that was securing a village in preparation for the Prime Minister and Crown Prince’s visit. ...

the majority of the targets, especially of drive by shootings, remain fellow Muslims, deemed to be collaborators ... 2007 has also seen an escalation in the number of civil disobedience cases, in particular those of women and children who surround police stations demanding the release of suspects. There have been three high profile cases in 2007. For example, some 50 veiled women surrounded a police station in Pattani’s Nong Chik district to demand the release of Mayadee Samah, a suspected insurgent arrested the day before. Also in Pattani, some 200 villagers sieged and vandalized a police station to protest the arrest of a suspected militant.? Most recently, more than 70 Muslim women and children staged protest. ... Teachers, who have been routinely targeted by insurgents announced that they had no confidence in the government's security plans to protect them. The region is bracing for another wave of school closures.

Meanwhile, the Thai Royal Army is attempting to create the basics of a counterterrorist infrastructure. Thirty local paramilitary companies are being organized. The Defense budget is being increased. A fingerprinting and "Smart ID" card system is being established. Things are starting, perhaps not from Square One, but from the basics. It is not clear whether the Jihad is now wholly in charge of the Thai Insurgency in the south. But it is clear that leading it is their goal.


Blogger Unknown said...

I mapped out Jihadi attacks from 2003 to present


2/20/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

If I were in the Thai government, I would institute and fund government funded madrassas, import carefully selected teachers, and keep careful notes of what gets taught in the classes.

Then, I would make sure every mosque preacher, administrator, et cetera was a graduate of the Thai madrassa system. I would quietly bug every mosque. This would either let the government find out exactly what's going on or the "insurgents" would be unable to incite jihad from these mosques. These government-funded mosques could be coupled with fortified villages with Thai-armed village (and urban neighborhood) militia to create pro-government enclaves against Islamist rebels.

The Thai government should also promote conferences on mysticism, specifically inviting Sufis to live in the south. Although these Sufis won't put a dent in the willingness of local Muslims to rebel (and indeed may become leaders of the rebellion), such a tactic would help sever the connection between the local rebellion and al-Qaeda. This would be advantageous to the Thai government because the government could theoretically negotiate with local rebels with an antipathy against al-Qaeda, but not against a transnational organization such as al-Qaeda that glories in atrocity.

2/20/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Grim said...

Sidney Jones has pointed to Bangladeshi involvement in some of the more spectacular attacks in s. Thailand.

I myself will attest that some of the tactics being used (esp. the ready setting of ambushes along likely police response routes) are probably taught rather than learned.

That said, the insurgency in S. Thailand seems to be of a different character that Qaeda-linked movements. It is a liberation movement -- I use the term not to ascribe any sense of morality to it, but only to describe it. It isn't about Islam per se, but about Malay ethnicity, about recapturing the homeland and ancient kingdom of the people.

It also seems to have little capacity to take the war to Bangkok and other, prominently ethnic Thai regions. If it were about jihad, one would expect it to do so -- and to have some success in converting ethnic Thai Muslims. It hasn't had any such success that I've noticed.

A minor aside -- I had posted some support for your article about the Small Wars folks and Islamic Tv in al Anbar. That can be found at Blackfive.net, here:


2/20/2007 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Vince, I am going to post your link at the elephant. An impressive piece of work.

2/20/2007 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

It sounds more and more that the only solution is going to be partition.

if the jihadists seek genocide, then they will receive in turn.

I do not see any other way thru this.

2/20/2007 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 02/20/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

2/20/2007 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Habu said...

Idiocy and illegals.
OK. Then we can get rid of the demographics that don't fit in and will never assimilate....

People get ready ..there's trouble here in River city.
The melting pot needed fresh makings to have it work correctly. For the past thirty plus years, perhaps forty the melting pot has been filled with rancid leftovers and offal, and human sewage that doesn't really end up quite the brew to produce great nations. A little ethnic cleansing would go a long way.
Ethnic cleansing has gotten a good deal of bad press in the US but it appears to work wonders in keeping certain areas of the world secure in their homogeneity where mixing in others has never and will never work.
We on the other hand are now at the point where we no longer enforce our laws on immigration and in fact jail those whose sworn duty it is to do so. We've become a sewer of spearate and unequal societies within our inner cities and the gang immigrants like it that way...they own "their turf" where our police won't even go. Pick out any big city and tell me I'm wrong. Meanwhile the playing field for the honest law abiding citizen continues to get smaller and smaller.....and to borrow from Thomas Paine, They cry peace but there is no peace.....well we cry melting pot but there's no longer a melting pot , it's a sewer.
Time for another shooting revolution and some reinforcement of the constitution endowment to a primarily Enlightenment educated population from the English speaking world.
The French do not practice or believe in the "universal rights of man", nor should we be bound by events that were wholly unforseen by those who established this country.
I say we have a call to arms and deport or kill those who refuse to buy into the American Way of Life.
I would suggest that we start by executing ALL those on death rows in the many states who have exhausted all appeals.
We have developed exactly what was predicted by many writers thirty-five years ago to the present. A society so dumbed down to the lowest common denominator that no amount of money can save it from it's own internal contradictions. It also happens to be what Karl Marx predicted would happen to capitalist societies. The internal contradictions would be it's demise ....
But I would have those who ponder who bow their necks in indignation, saying that they swore an allegiance to the constitution etc.etc. follow along.
Well, that is a good oath,a good thing because in it it fixes the party to defend the country against all enemies domestic and foreign.

Please have one of them tell me how 500,000 illegal aliens of G*d knows what nationality of allegience who cross our borders every year are not "enemies" invading out country(that would be the defending the foreign part.

Then once here they do not seek to assimilate but rather establish their own independent enclaves (see current France for reference or parts of our own big cities) establish gangs, MS-13,AQ..lists og gangs too exhausting to read ,much less type, are actively work against a host of laws from murder,rape, bank robbery, gun running and active subversion of the contitution.

That is the defending aginst the domestic, but only because we have this tremendously ill conceived notion that anyone on our soil is entitled to ALL of the protections of our laws.The position that a person or persons that have invaded this country br allowed it's protections is absurd. My position is that if they are here illegally they have abrogated any protection afforded our laws by the initial step of voluntarily violating a portion of those laws.
In the philosophical arena we edge closer to Marx with each passing decade as we make our constitution more Gumby like in it's design and intent. Ths was never intended and it is there for all who care to study the original notes on the Constitutional Convention including the very much sited Farrands records of the Convention of 1787....

2/20/2007 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

The post is refreshingly accurate in it’s portrayal of insurgent uprising in the South of Thailand but only touches on the paradoxical dynamic of what is happening down South. The former Prime Minister, a man more interested in personal wealth creation, and aware of the power of distractions, encouraged martial law in the South of Thailand and ruled with an iron fist.

Since Thaksin was ousted in the Putsch of September 2006, it was assumed that following a military public apology for the Tak Bai massacre and Krue Sae mosque standoff (both crucial episodes of Government and military incompetence for anyone wanting to understand militancy in Southern Thailand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Thailand_insurgency), and efforts to reconcile with the South, that the situation would improve. It hasn't and ostensibly has become much worse. I've yet to figure out quite why, but Thailand’s fortunes have deteriorated markedly across all indicators since the former plutocrat was kicked out. Maybe money can buy everything, but the assertion that militants trained abroad are the biggest problem simply makes no sense in light of the proximity of Phuket and the ease of exposure that Bangkok has to being bombed in the tourist areas which is where the Thai government is most weak. Abroad or not, that’s where they would be attacked. Tourist Dollars are the single biggest contributor towards GDP and it's almost bizarre how Thailand has avoided an attack of similar nature to the Bali bombing.

Again, it's crucial to swot up on the Wikipedia references and check out some of the Youtube clips if one is to make a considered comment. The guy yelling out paw laeow is basically saying 'please stop, i've had enough'.


2/20/2007 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

I am sure the Thai insurgency will disappear if the US can negotiate a peace between Israel and the Palestinians;-)

2/20/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

Absolutely. Until there is peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis there is no chance elsewhere. The problem is that it's there is no point asking the US to mediate peace as there is no tangible difference between Israel and the U.S. Israel actually brags how it has the U.S. in it's pocket but the truth is they are inseperable.

For those wishing to understand more on the uprising in the South of Thailand there is a good piece in the Bangkok Post which raises the notion that the elevated violence may be down to supporters of Thaksin who are playing opportunist.


2/21/2007 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

As you can see, it shifts up a gear to civil war but my view is that it's not. Iraq is civil war. Pattani, Yala, Naratiwat are nowhere near Iraq.


2/21/2007 09:39:00 AM  

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