Monday, August 31, 2009

Killings in Southern Thailand on the Rise

Paka Lue Song, only a 15-minute drive from the provincial capital of Pattani, is ground zero for Thailand’s “surge” of troops into its troubled southern provinces, where ethnic Malay Muslims are battling for autonomy from Thailand’s Buddhist majority.The number of Thai security forces, including the army, the police and full-time militiamen, has doubled here over the past two years to about 60,000 personnel.The huge increase in security forces initially helped bring down the overall number of violent incidents as well as the death toll, which fell by 40 percent last year.

But more recently analysts refer to another surge: the number of killings has risen sharply in recent months. More than 317 people have been killed so far this year, compared with 284 in the same period last year. The dead include civilians, soldiers and insurgents.

Mujahadeen Movement (or GMIP by its Malay acronym) and the National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-C), is to cleanse the area of Buddhists, discredit the Thai government and put into place strict Islamic laws.

But their exact goals and motives are unclear. Although the groups appear to have communicated with and received financing from foreign organizations, most experts discount significant connections with other militant movements, such as Al Qaeda and the Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiyah. The movement in southern Thailand, they say, appears to be a localized struggle over territory and control overlaid with historical resentment over the domination of the Thai state.

Excerpt from Thomas Fuller article in the NY Times

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