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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

Small-scale anti-govt protests continued in capital Bangkok, while insecurity persisted in deep south, which saw series of bomb attacks. In capital Bangkok, police 6 Dec arrested some 36 protesters camped in front of Government House, protesting govt’s planned industrial estate development in Songkhla province’s Chana district. Small, silent vigils, dubbed “Stand Against Imprisonment”, continued to be staged outside courts in Bangkok two or three times per week, to demand bail for anti-govt protest leaders. Small group of activists 7 Dec gathered in Bangkok to call for repeal of lèse-majesté law. Anti-govt protest group Taluh Fah next day organised “car mob” to call for release of jailed pro-democracy protest leaders and show solidarity with anti-industrial estate protesters. Larger-scale protest 12 Dec saw demonstrators gather in capital to demand abolition of lèse-majesté law; at main protest site Ratchaprasong Intersection, police scuffled with crowd; although anti-govt protests have decreased significantly in scale and frequency since their 2020 peak, rally demonstrated both intent and capacity to continue. In deep south, in Narathiwat province, Islamic insurgent group Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) 6 Dec exchanged fire with soldiers of 49th Ranger Regiment in forest near Srisakorn district, killing civilian and RKK leader. Vehicle carrying six officers of Budo Mountain National Park Protection Unit same day drove over roadside bomb in Marue Botok subdistrict; no serious injuries reported. Bomb 11 Dec exploded in Rueso district close to two monks and two rangers. Bomb 14 Dec exploded on road in Su-ngai Padi district, damaging six-vehicle convoy carrying rangers, with no casualties reported. In Songkhla province, security forces 8 Dec clashed with RKK militants in Tae Pha district, with no known casualties. In Pattani province, bomb on train tracks 13 Dec damaged train in Khok Pho district, injuring one passenger and two railway staff. At least 1,000 refugees 17 Dec reportedly crossed into Thailand following fighting in Myanmar’s Kayin State; Thai authorities 19 Dec sent over 600 refugees back across border (see Myanmar). Meanwhile, all political parties continued to prepare for 2022 election despite PM Prayut Chan-o-cha denying possibility of early election several times throughout month.

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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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