No ‘foreign hand’ in Thailand’s southern violence – yet

Updated On: May 20, 2005

Bangkok – Although there has been talk of a “foreign hand” in the ongoing unrest in Thailand’s deep South, a study by the International Crisis Group (ICG) has found no evidence of any external involvement. Instead, the violence in the mainly-Muslim region is motivated by local grievances, the ICG said in a report released on May 18. 

    “But if this situation is left to fester, it could attract jihadists from outside Thailand,” said ICG’s Southeast Asia project director Sidney Jones. 
    The report,  “Southern Thailand: Insurgency Not Jihad”, examined three major incidents in the deep South last year in a bid to gain a clear picture of the cause of the violence. The three incidents were the Jan 4 raid on an army camp; the April 28 Krue Se mosque massacre;  and the Tak Bai tragedy on Oct 25. 
    The report said questions remained about who were the masterminds behind the bloody incidents, and how they were linked. 
    “But one thing is clear,” said analyst Francesca Lawe-Davies, “Thaksin Shinawatra’s policy over the last 16 months has not helped.” 
    Unless the Thaksin government makes an effort to address injustices and opens genuine dialogue with southern leaders soon, violence would only continue to escalate, she said. 
    The report suggested that the government take a look back to the era of relaxation between late 1980s and 1990s, when governments offered an olive branch to separatists in the South. The insurgency did not go away but violence was quelled, the report noted. 
     Prime Minister Thaksin’s recent moves have given rise to cautious optimism that he may finally be prepared to do just that. He told reporters on May 18 that there would be “numerous changes” in the way the unrest is handled from the end of the month. 
     Mr Thaksin said he is ready  to "change anything that could be changed'' to facilitate peace in the deep South. He wants to  fine-tune security measures and rotate the postings of personnel in the wake of the recent upsurge in violent incidents. 
    "Key policies are on track but I have yet to receive a clear explanation of why the instigators of major terror attacks are still at large," he said.

* Thaksin to rotate security personnel in South (The Nation, May 19)

* No foreign terrorists in South: ICG (The Nation, May 19)