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Thailand’s Forgotten Conflict

by Joshua Kurlantzick
July 23, 2012

Thai rescue workers remove a body after a bomb blast in southern Thailand's Yala province. (Surapan Boonthamon/courtesy Reuters) Thai rescue workers remove a body after a bomb blast in southern Thailand's Yala province. (Surapan Boonthamon/courtesy Reuters)

While the now six-years-old standoff in Bangkok between Thailand’s traditional elites and the pseudo-populist parties allied with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has gotten most of the international press, a far more brutal struggle, in Thailand’s Deep South, has gone virtually unnoticed for more than a decade. Since the early 2000s, more than 5,000 people have been killed in the conflict in southern Thailand, and the war shows no signs of ending any time soon.

In the Boston Globe’s Sunday Ideas section, I examine the southern Thai conflict, and the reasons why it has been so ignored, both in Thailand and in the international community.

Read the article here.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Antonio L Rappa, Associate Professor and Head, UniSIM Security Studies

    Forgive the long quote from an RSIS Commentary publication: “There is a state of emergency in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. It is an emergency within the Thai nation-state itself because of the complexity of the region’s religious, linguistic and cultural traditions. Assimilationist policies had failed since the time of Marshall Phibun. They did not accommodate the religious identity and aspirations of the southern Muslims. Pro-state Thais cannot understand why Malay-speaking Thais do not embrace compulsory Buddhist education like other Thai citizens. This perception gap is complicated by the fact of many Thai Muslims who hold Malaysian passports and who cross the two countries joint-borders in the thousands every day. The state of emergency in Thailand’s south places the national security of the entire nation at risk. It does appear that only the King can resolve the problem for good”, please refer to the RSIS Commentary 2012.

  • Posted by Raja M. Ali Saleem

    While education, openness and democracy are necessary for development and progress in the long run, in the medium-term, these two lead to minorities knowing their rights; understanding how they are different from others and; noticing how other minority groups have fought and succeeded in getting autonomy/independence. This might then lead to insurgencies, particularly when the governments are inapt and minorities are concentrated in a particular area.

    Newly democratized countries may face a resurgence of such conflicts, as in constrast with the past, they are more open and are committed to equality and basic rights of all people. However, democratic governments have less space to resolve these conflicts than authoritarian regimes as democratic governments depend on majority community votes and any concessions and accepting minority rights may mean electoral defeat.

    This imbroglio usually continues until either minorities win (e.g. South Sudan, East Timor) or they are completely defeated (e.g. Tamils in Sri Lanka).

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