The August bombings in seven of Thailand's tourist towns portend a wider conflict, while the peace dialogue process has lost momentum. To get back on track, fragmented militants must end doubtful hopes of victory through violence, and the government must commit to a comprehensive settlement, including decentralisation and respect for the deep south’s Malay-Muslim identity.
Originally published in The New York Times
Former PM Yingluck Shinawatra fled country before Supreme Court due to deliver verdict in her trial for dereliction of duty for failing to stem corruption in her govt’s rice-subsidy scheme 25 Aug. Amid concerns verdict could stir moribund anti-junta movement, military and police set up checkpoints on roads from Red-Shirt strongholds in north/north east to Bangkok. Thai-speaking armed men 29 July reportedly abducted anti-govt activist and prominent Red Shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun in Laotian capital Vientiane, where he fled in March following allegations he was organising armed resistance to junta; govt denied any knowledge of incident. Crackdown on opposition in media continued, including for social media posts on politics. Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan 9 Aug told reporters junta’s ban on political activity would remain in effect. National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission 10 Aug levied another 30-day ban on pro-Thaksin cable television channel Peace TV. Law student and pro-democracy activist 15 Aug plead guilty to lèse-majesté after sharing BBC Thai article about King Rama X on Facebook; attorney general 16 Aug indicted eight people on lèse majesté charges, accused of burning portraits of late and current kings in May. Amid ongoing militant violence in Deep South, two village volunteers killed and four injured 1 Aug by IED in Mai Kaen district, Pattani. Militants 16 Aug stole six trucks in Songkhla and rigged them with IEDs; three trucks abandoned, one IED injured four soldiers in Pattani, one caused only property damage, and security forces killed driver of another truck. Two hostages shot in incident, one fatally.
Thailand’s military regime promised a return to democracy, but keeps prolonging its power by delaying general elections. Beyond a new constitution, Thailand needs a new social contract to resolve the crippling struggle between elected politicians and an unelected establishment that includes the army, bureaucracy and palace.
The insurgency that has plagued southern Thailand for more than a decade continues to fester. Peace talks have collapsed and rifts between the government and separatists remain deep. Resolving the conflict requires Bangkok to accept pluralism and decentralisation, and rebels to articulate their goals and commit to a dialogue process.
Martial law has brought calm but not peace to Thailand’s febrile politics. The military regime’s stifling of dissent precludes a frank dialogue on the kingdom’s future and could lead to greater turmoil than that which brought about the May 2014 coup.
After a decade of violence, the capabilities of Malay-Muslim insurgents in Thailand’s Deep South are outpacing the counter-measures of successive governments in Bangkok that have been mired in complacency and protracted national-level political disputes.
The violent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year have challenged the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to turn its rhetoric into action, but to achieve peace and security more robust diplomacy is required to end a still unresolved conflict.
[The Barisan Revolusi Nasional sees its struggle as] nationalist and anti-colonial. Subordinating their struggle to a forlorn agenda imposed by outsiders would be counter-productive, if not suicidal.
The militants [of the National Revolutionary Front] continue to demonstrate that they have the capabilities to launch attacks across the region despite of the security measures by the Thai state.
[The main southern Thai insurgent group BRN] perceive the current (peace) process as one driven by Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur for their own interests.
The bombings [in Thailand] may have been intended to compel the military government to reconsider its approach to the conflict in the deep south.
Two years of military rule haven't really resolved any of the fundamental problems [in Thailand] ... and the constitution won't succeed in doing that either. The day of reckoning is just being delayed.
Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2017 includes entries on Nigeria, Qatar, Thailand and Venezuela. These early-warning publications identify conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
Originally published in Bangkok Post
Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review
Originally published in The Interpreter