Although little-known internationally, more than 4,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured in Thailand’s southernmost border provinces since a decades-long Malay Muslim separatist insurgency reignited in 2004. The violence has almost exclusively been centred on the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and, to a lesser extent, Songkhla, where Malay-Muslim’s make up the majority. There has been, particularly after 9/11, a fear that if the unrest continues this conflict could transform into a full blown ethno-nationalised centred insurgency, attracting Islamist extremists and having international consequences. So far though, the strong sense of Malay identity prominent amongst Thailand’s southern population has ensured this conflict has not Islamisized, despite recent attacks taking on a religious tone. This situation however is not static – Bangkok’s refusal to deal with the regions local grievances coupled with the heavy handed tactics by the police and the military ensure the threat remains fluid.
Since 2006 and the ousting of the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand has also been beset by national political instability, culminating in the violent governmental repression of protestors in early 2010. For the southern insurgency, Thaksin’s removal presented a real opportunity to undo the damage his repressive policies had on the southern insurgency. This opportunity though has been squandered by successive governments, leaving the southern insurgency to fester and morph into its current decentralized incarnation. Broadly speaking, Thailand’s troubled democracy has only ensured the southern insurgency has at times been a secondary concern, meaning many of its responses, particular the military’s counterinsurgency strategy, have been knee-jerk reactions and ineffective.
Local people seize a chance for peace in Southern Thailand
In this video our Local Correspondent Ismail Wolff looks at the prospects for peace in South Thailand.
Thailand conflict profile
Explore our guide to the conflict in Thailand. Includes a general overview, timeline, guide to key people and resources. Read more »
Stories from Thailand
Peacebuilding organisations in Thailand
Below are listed peacebuilding and conflict resolution organisations active in Thailand. Just click on a group’s name for further information.