Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thai Insurgents recruiting from schools
Insurgents in southern Thailand are using a network of Islamic schools to recruit fighters, but their movement does not appear to be linked to Al Qaeda or other foreign Islamist groups. Analysts have for some time working to determine the primary motivations of an insurgency that has left more than 3,400 people dead in towns and villages within several hours’ drive of Thailand’s most popular beach resorts.
The International Crisis Group study describes a homegrown movement of Malay Muslim fighters that seeks independence from Thailand and is built around longstanding resentment toward the majority Thai Buddhists in the country.
A group known as the National Revolutionary Front-Coordinate was the main force in recruiting an estimated 1,800 to 3,000 fighters drawn from more than 100,000 students in the area’s Islamic school system.
Until recently, a two-year crackdown by the Thai military appeared to be reducing violence in the area. But tensions flared earlier this month when a group of masked gunmen opened fire on a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque, killing 10 people and seriously wounding 12. Since the start of this month, at least 36 people have been killed and more than 100 have been wounded in southern Thailand.