Saturday, March 15, 2008

Malaysia and the insurgency in Southern Thailand

It's a bad situation. Islamic extremists wage a bloody insurgency against Thai authorities. The violence in Southern Thailand today is comparable to worst areas of Iraq.

In the recent general election in Malaysia, the Islamic parties picked up control of several Malaysian states bordering the Southernmost provinces of Thailand. How will this development impact the deteriorating situation in Southern Thailand? The Thai government may have cause for concern. Bangkok Post (via Bangkok Pundit) reports:
. . . The Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) kept control of Kelantan state and added Kedah. For the first time, Islamist governments will rule Malaysian states abutting all five Muslim-majority provinces in the South. In addition to parts of Yala, Kedah borders the province of Satun - which has seen no violence since the southern insurgency flared up in 2004. It also borders on three Songkhla province districts where terrorist-type violence has spread. . .

The importance of this was stressed last week by Mr Samak at his regular news conference. He cited alleged new intelligence reports from the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) that the instigators of the southern violence are "people from outside the country".

Bangkok Pundit notes that historically Malaysia has served as a sanctuary for alleged Thai insurgents. He writes: "There are alleged links between PAS members and the violence in the Deep South (. . .) there are suggestions of supplying of weapons and coordination." Perhaps Thai intelligence has further information on such allegations? Otherwise, why is it that Thailand's Prime Minister Samak does not plan to meet prominent PAS politicians on his upcoming trip to Malaysia? Bangkok Pundit notes that the central government is not by any means PAS dominated, and so could, in theory be more helpful, but an obstacle remains: "The Malaysian central government can do more, but politically it can't if Thailand continues to mistreat those who are detained."

While some Thais will be quick to point a finger at Malaysia, Thailand needs to take a hard look in the mirror first.
Map: via Nomad Forever

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