Bangkok – While there is no evidence of Al-Qaeda’s direct involvement in Thailand’s southern insurgency, the terror network appears to be a source of inspiration for the separatists. According to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a raid on an Islamic school showed that Muslim insurgents in the area were using Al-Qaeda’s military-training CDs to train terrorists.
“On Thursday, the authorities searched Jihad Withaya (an Islamic school), and found ammunition, evidence of military training, secret documents concerning an independent Pattani state, and Al-Qaeda training CDs that they have adopted for their struggle," Mr Thaksin said during his weekly radio address to the nation on May 21.
The boarding school has since been shut down and the authorities are looking for its owner.
Mr Mohammed-ariwee Beunae, secretary-general of an Islamic boarding school association in southern Thailand, said Jihad Withaya was not registered with any recognised organisation.
Without dismissing the suggestion that students at some pondoks (Islamic boarding schools) have been involved in the southern unrest, he said the public should not have the impression that all pondoks were breeding grounds for insurgents.
Mr Mohammed-ariwee suggested that the Thaksin government had over-reacted to evidence that Jihad Withaya was a possible training ground for militants. He pointed out that the school was situated in an open, low-lying area in Yala's Yaring district and such military training could not be carried out day or night without the knowledge of thousands of military and security personnel present in the region.
A recent study by the International Crisis Group (ICG) found no evidence of any external involvement in the southern insurgency. The violence in the mainly-Muslim region is motivated by local grievances, the study said. However, it also warned that the unrest, left unchecked, could attract “external jihadists” in the future.
* Al-Qaeda CDs bagged in pondok raid (The Nation, May 22)