New School Versus Old School
May 19, 2007: The violence in the south has declined 43 percent from last year, to 1,170 violent incidents so far this year (through May 15). Half the attacks this year involved firearms, a quarter were bombs and fifteen percent setting fires. About one percent of the 2,200 people killed in the last three years, have been beheaded. This is a horrific action to make the deaths more newsworthy. The Islamic militants behind most of the violence, are eager to get as much media attention as possible. Since actually establishing an Islamic State (the non-Moslem Thais are too numerous, nationalistic and violent to let that happen) is virtually impossible, the media coverage is the best they can get. The terrorism also aids the smuggling gangs, or at least it did for a while. But with all the additional troops and police, and their checkpoints, it’s becoming more difficult to smuggle goods across the border. Talk about unintended consequences.
The violence in the south is increasingly directed more at Moslems, as the terrorists try to eliminate government informers, and non-Moslems increasingly organize death squads to carry out reprisal attacks. Most of the Moslem population wants all the violence to stop, as this sort of thing has happened before. Since the Moslem Sultanate was taken over by Thailand a century ago, there have been uprisings every few generations. In the past, these rebellions were put down with much violence by the Thai government. It’s not for nothing that Thailand is one of the few nations in the region to never be colonized. The Thais are tough, determined, and vicious if provoked. However, times have changed, and “vicious” doesn’t play as well as it used to. So the Thai government is telling the southerners to cool it, and is sending money and other economic aid as peace offerings. In times past, this might have worked. But this time around, it’s not just ethnic (the southerners are Malays) and religious (some 95 percent of Thais are Buddhists) differences, but the presence of Islamic radicals who want to convert all Thais to Islam, and establish an Islamic religious dictatorship throughout the region. This will never work, and if the Islamic militants are able to keep it up long enough, the Thais will toss political correctness and go old school on the Moslem minority. That may help the world-wide Islamic radical movement (by providing lots of “martyrs”), but it will be a disaster for the Moslems in southern Thailand. And it will probably work. Islamic terrorists have been stamped out several times in the last twenty years, using similar methods. Most Moslems are caught in the middle. If they oppose the Islamic militants, they are attacked for disloyalty. If the Moslems support the terrorists, they are subject to attack by death squads or security forces.
The increased police presence in the south has reduced the violence, but not eliminated the terrorist cells. That will take longer, because establishing a large enough informer network, to do the job, can take several years. The Thais have the Israeli model to follow. The Israelis used informer networks, and going after the key terrorist personnel (leaders and technicians) to cripple the terrorist groups into ineffectiveness.