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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

Protest movement calling for constitutional reform resumed in capital Bangkok while violence returned in deep south after quiet month. Criminal court 9 Feb imprisoned four protest leaders for violation of lèse-majesté law; ruling came day after panel of UN human rights experts expressed “grave concerns” over recent lèse-majesté charges and sentences. In Bangkok, protesters resumed rallies throughout month, calling for release of four jailed protest leaders, amendment of lèse-majesté law and reform of monarchy. Over 1,000 protesters 10 Feb gathered at Pathumwan intersection and scuffled with police; hundreds 13 Feb gathered at Democracy Monument; protesters later same day marched toward Grand Palace and clashed with riot police; separate group of pro-democracy protesters same day met at Nang Loeng police station, where police fired warning shots and media reported 23 protestors and 20 police officers injured during incident and 11 people arrested. Rally of several hundred 19 Feb took place near parliament. Police 28 Feb fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in clashes with pro-democracy protesters in Bangkok; incident left 23 policemen and ten protesters injured, and police arrested 22 people. Meanwhile, lawmakers 9 Feb agreed that Constitutional Court should rule on legality of proposed constitutional amendments aimed at setting up charter drafting committee; opposition sees recourse to court as move to derail reform efforts; two proposed amendment bills 25 Feb passed second reading. Deep south witnessed uptick in violence after calmer Jan. In Narathiwat province, arsonists 1 Feb set fire to two cell signal towers before targeting police officers responding to fire with IED, wounding five in Si Sakhon district; gunmen 14 Feb fired shots at guard post outside police station in Bacho district. In Pattani province, grenade 13 Feb exploded in parking lot of block of police apartments; militants 16 Feb fired two grenades at Marine outpost in Mai Khen district; gunmen 20 Feb shot and killed Malay-Muslim defence volunteer in Khok Po district. In first publicly acknowledged dialogue in over a year, govt representatives 3 Feb engaged with armed group Barisan Revolusi Nasional to discuss “how to handle peace talks during the COVID-19 time”.
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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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