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Thailand: Malay-Muslim Insurgency and the Dangers of Intractability
Thailand: Malay-Muslim Insurgency and the Dangers of Intractability
Tombs in a Muslim cemetery are silhouetted during sunset in the village of Karateren near the Aral Sea, in southwestern Kazakhstan, April 2005. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
Briefing 72 / Europe & Central Asia

叙利亚在呼唤:中亚的激进化

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概述

越来越多的中亚公民正赶赴中东参与战斗或以其他形式支持伊斯兰国,其中男女均有。部分由于政治边缘化和后苏联时代地区常有的经济萧条,在过去三年里有两到四千人抛弃了他们的世俗国家,转而投向激进团体。伊斯兰国不仅吸引那些寻求战斗经历的人,也吸引了那些追求更加虔诚、有目标、原教旨主义宗教生活的人。中亚各国政府因此面临一个复杂的问题。他们意欲利用这个现象来打击异议。但是更有效的解决之道应包括修正政治与行政上的多重失败,修改歧视性法律与政策,实施社区服务项目计划,为劣势群体青年创造国内就业机会,及提高安全部门之间的协调。

如果这些激进化的移民中有相当数量回到中亚,将会影响整个地区的安全与稳定。这个脆弱的地区由哈萨克斯坦、吉尔吉斯斯坦、塔吉克斯坦、土库曼斯坦和乌兹别克斯坦组成,夹在俄罗斯与阿富汗、伊朗和中国之间。每个国家都受困于低下的执政能力、腐败和犯罪。乌兹别克斯坦和土库曼斯坦类似于威权主义警察国家。哈萨克斯坦有一些财富,但国家破损严重,且是独裁的政治体制。五国均无法提供有质量的社会服务,农村地区尤其如此。他们的安全部队资金不足、训练水平低下且倾向于用粗暴的手段来弥补资源与技术上的不足,因此没有能力应对激进伊斯兰这样复杂的挑战。五国本应在促进宗教自由的同时维护世俗宪法,并且学习欧洲或亚洲国家将圣战分子去激进化的经验,但他们通过法律限制宗教发展,并利用警察进行打击,反而进一步推动了激进化。

该地区各处的清真寺和祈祷室都成为了为极端事业进行招募的场所。互联网和社交媒体起到了关键但不是决定性的作用。女性走向激进化通常是由于她们在中亚地区缺乏社会、宗教、经济和政治机会。伊斯兰国控制领土的吸引力并不是经济回报。对一些人来说,这是一次个人冒险;对其他人来说,这是战斗号召。许多人实际的角色是为来自高加索或阿拉伯国家的更有经验的战士提供支持服务。

乌兹别克族人,包括乌兹别克公民,在伊斯兰国的中亚人中数量最大,但吉尔吉斯人、哈萨克人、土库曼人和塔吉克人也为数不少。有一些是从国内招募的;其他则是在国外变得激进的,通常是移民工人。这个问题在吉尔吉斯斯坦南部尤为严重,自从2012年奥什市的暴力事件导致乌兹别克人社区的异化后,风险就被放大了。

该地区民众对政治和社会变革的渴望未能得到满足,圣战主义思想也因此获得了土壤。伊斯兰国的支持者中贫富各异、教育程度各异、年龄各异、男女皆有,但他们的重要共同点是对社会和政治环境的失望。乌兹别克斯坦问题尤为严重。虽然在这里乌兹别克斯坦伊斯兰运动或阿富汗塔利班早就存在,但那些原本并未考虑加入这些组织的人,却因深感压抑与被排挤而认同伊斯兰国是一个新颖的神命的政治秩序。

通过伊斯兰国接受战斗训练并逐步晋升入指挥层的中亚人的数量不断上升,他们所参与的圣战主义网络也在不断壮大。虽然大部分中亚人都被大概根据种族和语言分成不同的小组,但这些小组又联合形成了更大的地区部队,包括了来自前苏联、阿富汗、巴基斯坦和中国新疆地区互相协作的战士。这些网络很有可能在中亚加速发展并且形成自身目标,而本来就缺乏能力应对此类安全威胁的中亚各国政府对此毫无准备。

俄罗斯和中国已经表达了忧虑,敦促中亚各国政府解决伊斯兰国崛起而带来的激进化问题。这个地区的其他国际合作伙伴,包括欧盟和美国,应该认识到有越来越多的中亚人正加入伊斯兰国。在对中亚国家就解决这一问题的建议中,应优先考虑执法改革,以及对宗教采取更宽容的态度。但是如果中亚国家之间缺乏协调,包括安全部队之间的情报分享,地区外国家所希冀的应对措施很可能失败。

比什凯克/布鲁塞尔, 2015年1月20日

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.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2017 – Second Update.

The occurrence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked or inspired violence in Jakarta, Mindanao, and Puchong, near Kuala Lumpur, has raised fears of a new era of transnational jihadist terrorism in South East Asia. To date, ISIS has used Thailand as a transit point rather than a target; indeed, there is no known case of a Thai citizen joining the group. But the persistence of a Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency in the kingdom’s southernmost provinces, where roughly 7,000 people have been killed since 2004, is a source of concern among some Western governments, Thai officials, local people and even some within the militant movement. Repeated, if poorly substantiated reports of ISIS activity in Thailand, from foreign fighters transiting through Bangkok to allegations of Malaysian ISIS members buying small arms in southern Thailand, have prompted questions about the insurgency’s susceptibility to radicalisation along transnational jihadist lines. Yet even absent intervention by foreign jihadists, the insurgency’s own dynamics could lead to greater violence.

Thus far, the separatist insurgency has had little in common with jihadism. Rooted in the country’s nearly two million Malay Muslims, who constitute a majority in the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, its aspirations are nationalist in nature: liberation of Patani, the homeland they consider to have been colonised by Thailand, and defence of Patani-Malay identity against so-called Siamification. Moreover, the insurgency draws support from traditionalist Islamic leaders, upholders of a syncretic, Sufi-inflected Islam who oppose the rigid views propagated by jihadists. Even the relatively small Salafi minority rejects ISIS’s brutal tactics and apocalyptic vision; some among them claim that ISIS is a product of Western machinations. For Barisan Revolusi Nasional Patani Melayu (BRN, Patani-Malay National Revolutionary Front), the main Malay-Muslim militant group, in other words, association with transnational jihadists would risk cutting them off from their base while triggering greater isolation. It could also internationalise efforts to defeat them.

Dangers of an Intractable Conflict

Yet perpetuation of the conflict risks altering its trajectory which, in turn, threatens to change the nature of the insurgency. In principle, this could potentially open opportunities for foreign jihadists, who have proven adept at exploiting other protracted conflicts. That remains for now a theoretical threat: little evidence thus far suggests jihadist penetration in Southern Thailand. As noted, neither the insurgency nor the broader Malay Muslim community has shown any inclination toward jihadism.

Without progress in peace talks or an inclusive dialogue, insurgents might resort to more dramatic acts of violence.

Without progress in peace talks or an inclusive dialogue, insurgents might resort to more dramatic acts of violence however. They already have shown they can stage attacks outside the deep south, as they did in August 2016 when they conducted a series of coordinated, small-scale bombings in seven resort areas, wounding European tourists among others. Militant groups also might splinter, with rival factions competing to demonstrate their capabilities to potential supporters and the government. In turn, increased violence or attacks against civilians – particularly outside the conflict zone – could fuel an anti-Islamic backlash and stimulate Buddhist nationalism, creating tensions between Muslim and Buddhist communities throughout the country. A prolonged conflict means more young Malay Muslims will have grown up in a polarised society and experienced traumatic events. This could split a more pragmatic elder generation from a more militant younger one.

Stalled dialogue

The surest way to reduce these risks would be to bring the insurgency to an end – a task at present both daunting and long-term. The ruling, military-led National Council for Peace and Order, which seized power in a May 2014 coup, is engaged in a dialogue with MARA Patani (Majlis Syura Patani, Patani Consultative Council), an umbrella group of five militant organisations whose leaders are in exile. But many perceive the dialogue, facilitated by Malaysia, essentially as a public-relations exercise through which Bangkok intends to signal its willingness to peacefully resolve the conflict without making any concessions. Likewise, there are doubts that MARA can control most fighters: although the BRN has the top three slots in MARA Patani’s leadership, BRN’s information department insists these members have been suspended and do not speak for the organisation.

After a year-and-a-half, the MARA process remains stuck. In April 2016, the Thai government balked at signing a Terms of Reference agreement to govern talks, which remain unofficial. At the time, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha argued that MARA lacked the necessary status to act as the government’s counterpart. After a hiatus, the two sides resumed their meetings in August and, in February 2017, they agreed in principle to establish “safety zones”, district-level compacts in which neither side would target civilians. They also agreed to form inclusive committees to investigate violent incidents, although details still need to be worked out and they have yet to announce a district for pilot implementation.

For its part, BRN insists on impartial international mediation and third-party observers as conditions for formal talks with Bangkok. In a 10 April 2017 statement, BRN’s information department reiterated these prerequisites and noted that negotiating parties themselves should design the process, a jab at Malaysia’s role as facilitator. Demonstrating that they exercised control over fighters, the BRN implemented an unannounced lull in attacks from 8 to 17 April, a period preceded and followed by waves of coordinated attacks across several districts.

In late June 2017, a senior Thai official said that the government might re-examine the issue of the identity of its counterpart, a rare public sign of high-level deliberation and possible flexibility. Although this could suggest willingness to consider BRN’s conditions – including the sensitive question of Malaysia’s role and that of any internationalisation – which it previously had rejected outright, it could also constitute another delaying tactic.

The National Council for Peace and Order apparently still clings to the conviction that the conflict can be resolved through attrition, enemy surrenders and economic development, without any fundamental change in state/society relations in the deep south. The military, whose entire ethos is based on the image of national unity and whose senior officers tend to view enhanced local power as a first step toward partition, is loath to contemplate autonomy or political decentralisation. Since taking power, it has suppressed once-lively public debate about decentralisation models, such as proposals for elected governors or sub-regional assemblies.

Options for the European Union

In this context, one of the international community’s longer-term goals should be to encourage Bangkok to accept some degree of political decentralisation as fully compatible with preservation of national unity. For the European Union (EU) and those EU member states that are engaged in the country such as Germany, in particular, an important objective would be to encourage the government to establish a more inclusive dialogue and to support it, when possible, through capacity building for both parties. Admittedly, their influence with the National Council for Peace and Order is limited. After the 2014 coup, the EU suspended official visits to and from Thailand, as well as negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement and the Partnership Cooperation Agreement, pending a return to elected government. Restrictions on popular representation, codified in the new constitution and laws, mean that even a general election, now scheduled for 2018, might not satisfy the EU’s requirement of functioning democratic institutions. Moreover, Bangkok is not yet prepared to countenance an EU role.

[The] EU and member states should urge the Thai government to restore civil liberties and freedom of expression to allow more open discussion and debate.

That aside, relations with Bangkok are not hostile; Thailand and the EU held a Senior Officials Meeting 9 June 2017 in Brussels, the first since 2012. When conditions permit, the EU should be well placed to support a peace process, given perceptions in Thailand of its impartiality. In the meantime, the EU and member states should continue encouraging the parties to deal with each other constructively. This could include sharing experiences in sub-national conflict resolution and political power devolution or offering training on matters such as negotiations, communication and conflict management.

In the near term, the EU and member states should urge the Thai government to restore civil liberties and freedom of expression to allow more open discussion and debate. Among other benefits, such steps would facilitate a public conversation within Malay Muslim communities that, in turn, might diminish risks of radicalisation. Already, the EU backs civil-society organisations’ endeavours to promote community and youth engagement in peace building. This ought to continue.