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Thailand

Thailand’s junta has relinquished military rule in favour of pseudo-democracy in which a pro-military party governs with a narrow parliamentary majority. There are no obvious near-term triggers for political turmoil in Thailand, but the country’s fundamental political and social divisions have not been bridged, and there is potential for future conflict. In the deep south, the Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency continues, while the dialogue process appears moribund. Crisis Group aims to reduce the risk of escalation in the south and limit medium-term threats to political stability by supporting strengthened democratic institutions and promoting substantive peace talks. 

CrisisWatch Thailand

Unchanged Situation

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and govt officials saw off no-confidence vote, while series of protests rocked capital Bangkok, leading to hundreds of arrests. In third such move, opposition 31 Aug-4 Sept challenged PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and five cabinet officials in parliamentary censure debate over issues including pandemic mismanagement and alleged corruption; lawmakers 4 Sept voted to reject no-confidence motion. In Bangkok, anti-govt protests continued throughout Sept with more than 600 arrested since July. Members of Red Shirts movement 2 Sept protested at Asoke intersection, calling for Prayuth’s resignation. United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and Thalufah group 3 Sept held mass demonstration in Rachaprasong area ahead of no-confidence vote, which thousands attended; Free Youth movement 4 Sept led march through commercial centre ending at Pratunam intersection and hanging banner reading “Reform of Monarchy”. Additional rallies 6, 7 Sept held at Asoke; rallies planned on 8 Sept however called off, citing pending arrest warrants for leaders. Thalugas protesters 6 Sept clashed with police in Din Daeng district. Police next day arrested 18 protesters for damaging state property and protests same day continued amid further clashes with police. Also on 7 Sept, Ramkhamhaeng for Democracy demonstrators protested at Government House and Thalufah protesters rallied at Democracy Monument. Anti-govt protesters 19 Sept gathered at Asoke intersection on anniversary of 2006 coup that ousted then-PM Thaksin Shinawatra; protestors later proceeded to Democracy Monument in mobile rally of over 1,500 vehicles. Six police booths in Bangkok were found vandalised 23 Sept, including four torched. Parliament 10 Sept voted to approve constitutional amendment to adopt two-ballot election system, one for constituency candidate and one for the party list. Meanwhile, in deep south, unidentified gunmen 6 Sept killed Muslim man in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat province. Unidentified attackers 15 Sept attacked two Muslim men in Ruesoh district, Narathiwat province, killing one and wounding another. Drive-by grenade attack at security booth in Panare district, Pattani province, killed one ranger; paramilitary ranger died following grenade attack on his post in Pattani’s Panare district 22 Sept. IED attack 28 Sept killed two police officers and wounded four in Chanae district, Narathiwat province.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

12 Feb 2020
I think the reason [for the new talks in Thailand] is that [the Muslim separatists] recognize that the conflict is not going to end on the battlefield for them; it's going to have to end at the negotiating table. Voice of America

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
22 Jan 2020
As difficult as the [peace process in Thailand] has been up to this point, the most difficult work remains to be done. AFP

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
10 Jun 2017
[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 Straits Times

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
28 Apr 2017
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. Voice of America

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
10 Apr 2017
[The main southern Thai insurgent group BRN] perceive the current (peace) process as one driven by Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur for their own interests. AFP

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
28 Aug 2016
The bombings [in Thailand] may have been intended to compel the military government to reconsider its approach to the conflict in the deep south. The Washington Post

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia

Latest Updates

Report / Asia

Southern Thailand’s Peace Dialogue: Giving Substance to Form

Talks to end the insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces have repeatedly encountered obstacles, including the main rebel organisation’s abstention from the current round. With a new Thai official taking charge, and inviting that group to rejoin, both parties should drop objections that have hindered progress.

Q&A / Asia

Behind the Insurgent Attack in Southern Thailand

On 5 November, insurgents in southern Thailand staged their deadliest attack in years, killing fifteen people. Crisis Group’s South East Asia Senior Analyst, Matt Wheeler, explains what happened and what it means for the stagnant peace-dialogue process.

Report / Asia

Jihadism in Southern Thailand: A Phantom Menace

Thailand’s Malay-Muslim insurgency appears to some observers a potential seedbed for transnational jihadism, but the separatist fronts do not share ideologies or objectives with ISIS or al-Qaeda. The future is uncertain, and a resolution of the conflict, based on political decentralisation, could help deter prospective jihadist expansion in southernmost Thailand.

Watch List 2017 – Second Update

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.

Commentary / Asia

Thailand: Malay-Muslim Insurgency and the Dangers of Intractability

The Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency in Thailand’s South has little in common with jihadism, but persistent instability could provide openings for foreign jihadists who thrive on  disorder. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Second Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to encourage Bangkok to accept some degree of decentralisation and to implement measures that can diminish radicalisation.

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Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
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