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The quiet insurrection in Thailand’s south

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   13 July 2010

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Two news stories today again focused my attention on the seemingly intractable insurgency in the south of Thailand.

Lives still seem to be taken there and nothing appears to be stopping it. In the southern district of Yala, a hidden bomb killed a female villager who detonated it when she stepped on a trip wire as she was heading to a plantation to tap her rubber tress and two ordinance officers dispatched to the scene nearly met the same fate and may lose their legs.

Such incidents are unfortunately commonplace in this ongoing separatist insurrection. The six-year-old conflict has taken more than 4,100 lives, including many civilians, although few make international headlines. Favorite targets are school teachers and other Thai government officials.

After six years, no one knows who the leaders are. The latest Thai effort at peacemaking is to release on bail about 500 who are currently being held behind bars. The Thai Justice Ministry hopes the bail initiative will earn trust from and ensure justice for suspects in the region who, without bail, might be detained for months before their cases go to court. This six-year onslaught is disturbing.

Meanwhile, Shahbudin Abdul Wahab, commander of Malaysia’s police academy, said terrorism, drugs and human trafficking - the top-three most serious threats - require collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

"We cannot work alone. We have to collaborate," he told reporters ahead of a three-day gathering of about 200 senior Asia-Pacific security officers, including FBI personnel from the United States.

Although, steps have been taken by the Thai and Malaysian governments to eliminate dual-passport cases, there is substantial reason to believe that insurrectionists can rather easily cross into Thailand by land or sea from Malaysia.

The scenario might easily be that when some separatists are captured as in the above 500, others can easily replace them.

There have been earlier, violent separatist movements in the region but those dissipated until 2004.

The issue seems to have no end, as what leaders can the Thai government talk to bring the killing and destruction to an end.

No one seems to know.

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