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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

Insurgent violence persisted in south and abduction of pro-democracy activist in exile sparked outrage and small-scale protests. In deep south, security forces 16 June exchanged fire with suspected insurgents in Saiburi district, Pattani; next day shot and killed suspected insurgent after he allegedly opened fire on them at checkpoint in Muang district, Pattani. Head of Thai delegation in Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations 19 June expressed his intention to restart talks with main insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in July or August. In two separate attacks, unidentified gunmen 22 June shot and killed village official and timber worker in Pattani and Yala provinces. In Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, unidentified gunmen 4 June abducted exiled Thai pro-democracy activist Wanchalerm Satsakit, who had fled Thailand after 2014 military coup; Wanchalerm’s disappearance 15 June sparked series of small-scale protests in capital Bangkok while prompting calls on social media to repeal article 112 of country’s criminal code under which insulting monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison; PM Prayuth Chan-ocha same day warned activists that such criticism could damage their job prospects. To mark anniversary of 1932 coup that ended absolute monarchy, pro-democracy activists 24 June staged peaceful commemorations across country. Security officials 23 June attempted to link discovery of small-arms cache in Mae Sot, Tak province, on Myanmar border, to alleged anti-government plot to coincide with 1932 coup anniversary; in fact, arms were destined for rebels in Myanmar.

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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

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.

Op-Ed / Asia

Government, Rebels Must End Pernicious Impasse

Originally published in Bangkok Post

Op-Ed / Asia

Can Thailand Really Hide a Rebellion?

Originally published in The New York Times

Our People

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
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