Thailand: Fire And Water


November 9, 2011: Two months of record (the worst in half a century) floods in the north have killed over 500 people (mostly by drowning, but increasingly by electrocution), left millions with damaged or destroyed homes and caused enormous damage to the economy. So far, economic growth for the next year has been cut from 4.1 percent to 2.6 percent. It would be worse were it not for planned reconstruction projects. Tourism and manufacturing are hard hit. Thailand is a major producer of computer hard drive components and some types of automobile parts. With many of these plants flooded (and several months away from reopening), some auto manufacturing is being delayed, and hard drive prices are rising. But Thailand produces much else, and some 10,000 factories have suffered some damage from the floods. Partly because it represents 40 percent of GDP, most of the effort to stem flooding has been in the capital, Bangkok.  Most of the city is still dry or only suffering minor flooding. This has caused resentment in the rest of the country.

In the relatively dry south, security forces continue their struggle to identify and suppress Islamic radicals. That is proving difficult, because the Islamic radicals have partnered with the many criminal gangs down there. Prospering mostly because of smuggling (particularly drugs), the gangsters have more connections throughout the population, and much older relationships than the Islamic radicals. But the two groups complement each other. The terror attacks distract the security forces, allowing the smugglers to continue doing business. The gangs provide the terrorists with shelter and financing. In effect, to bring peace to the south, the government has to simultaneously defeat two enemies (gangsters and terrorists) at once. That will require more manpower and money, which the central government is reluctant to provide.

November 1, 2011:  Islamic terrorist violence was particularly deadly last month, killing 46 and wounding 116 in the three southern Moslem majority provinces (with a population of 2.4 million). Most of the victims were Buddhists, although a growing number of Moslems are being hit, in an effort to prevent Moslems from informing on the terrorists and their gangster allies. The death rate, on an annual basis, is 23 per 100,000 population. That's nearly four times the American murder rate, but is actually down from what it was a few years ago. The Islamic terrorists have been losing ground, but are still numerous enough to keep the violence going.

October 30, 2011: In the south, Islamic terrorists set off several bombs, killing four people.

October 26, 2011:  In the south, Islamic terrorists killed seven people during several attacks over the weekend.


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