Thailand: The Generals Grab What They Can While They Can


March 4, 2015: Starting in late 2014 the government implemented a series of new measures to address the Islamic terrorism problem in the south. This included a promise to achieve peace in the south by the end of 2015, but that appears to be unlikely. That’s because the factions that comprise the southern rebels are not united and will only agree to resume peace talks if the army and special police cease all counter-terrorism operations. The government refuses to even consider this and insists that talks will not resume until all terrorist attacks cease. The rebels refuse to consider that either. But there is apparently a growing number of rebel factions willing to resume talks.

While the army is withdrawing troops from the south an additional 2,000 police are being added for the three Moslem provinces in the south with half the new police recruited from those three provinces. The government also distributed 2,700 assault rifles to self-defense volunteers in the south, mostly in rural Buddhist villages vulnerable to attack.  Some Moslem villages have received the rifles as well, because the Islamic terrorists are attacking Moslem villages they believe have turned against them. The presence of these armed volunteers discourages attacks. The navy is forming a new paramilitary ranger regiment which will be ready for service in 2016. These rangers will be stationed in the three Moslem provinces. All this seems to imply that the government expects Islamic terrorism to remain a threat in the south even after incidences of it down there become nearly non-existent. Some areas have even been declared free of all terrorist activity. The government pointed out that Islamic terrorist violence has diminished over the past few years because more Moslems in those three provinces had turned against the Islamic terrorists. That meant fewer young Moslems were joining the Islamic terrorist gangs and more people were tipping off the security forces about that local Islamic terrorists were up to. The government is also working closely with neighboring Malaysia, where many of the Thai Islamic terrorists spend some of their time and terrorist leaders are often based there. The Malaysian government is willing to act on specific information they receive from Thailand (and make an arrest). The Malaysian government has also been helpful in keeping communications (between the Thai government and most rebel faction leaders) and that has made it possible to try and revive peace talks.

The army ordered six EC145 helicopters from Airbus. These are to be used for transporting senior commanders and the first will arrive in 2016. As is the case whenever there is a coup the military is hustling to use their control of the government budget to buy things they cannot get past elected politicians. But there is only so much money and long-range buying plans do not work because elected politicians often cancel them as soon as they are back in charge. Thus the navy, which wants to refurbish the Harrier aircraft for its only aircraft carrier are unlikely to get the time or money for that. The carrier, built in the 1990s, is also due for refurbishment, but that is expensive and time consuming. The air force wants new jet fighters but the best they can manage in the short term is some upgrades and buying spare parts. One major purchase likely to survive elected politicians is the establishment of a Cyber War unit to improve the Internet security of military, government and commercial users. The military government has also passed new (and long sought) laws to make it easier to prosecute people for crimes committed via the Internet.

The military is also trying to pass laws that will make the next elected government less troublesome for the military and the other groups (royalists, urban elites) that supported the recent coup. The majority of Thais still back the populists so the struggle continues and will heat up if the elections are held, as promised by the military, at the end of 2015.

March 1, 2015: The army said it will withdraw troops from the south that had been brought in from other parts of the country to help with security. The many areas in the three southern provinces where there had been little or no Islamic terrorist violence will lose the additional troops.

February 28, 2015: In the capital two senior police commanders were removed from their jobs after a military operation detected and raided illegal gambling operations in the areas the two commanders were responsible for. Corruption in the police has long been a common complaint.

In the south (Yala) a roadside bomb attempted to damage two army trucks but failed to cause any damage.

February 27, 2015: In the south (Narathiwat) a remotely controlled car bomb went off outside a bar, which was closed. But twelve people in nearby buildings were wounded. Police later found two other bombs nearby and disabled them. Apparently these two bombs were to be used against police and rescue workers rushing to the scene. The car used in the bombing had earlier been stolen, and its owner killed, by unidentified gunmen. Security cameras caught some of the bombers in action and police have been able to identify eight people (some known Islamic terrorists) they believe were behind this plot. The local Islamic terrorists have lost a lot of popular support lately and this attack was to show the public that the local Islamic terrorists were still in business. That effort failed because the police soon received tips from the public about who was responsible. Although no one was killed in the bombing over a dozen business were badly damaged and that will put some locals out of work for a while and inconvenience many more shoppers. While this is more annoying than anything else it reinforces the popular attitude that the Islamic terrorists are part of the problem, not any likely solution.

The use of security camera video to identify Islamic terrorists has become more common and in response Islamic terrorists in some areas have taken to destroying the cameras. This is unpopular with most people because the cameras tend to reduce crime, or at least ensure that criminals are caught.

Four Thai fishermen, captured off the Somali coast by pirates in 2010 were finally freed. It was unclear if someone finally paid a ransom. The four were among 24 serving on an ocean going fishing vessel. The owner of the fishing ship refused to pay ransom, thus abandoning the crew. Six of the crew died from disease and 14 from Burma were freed in 2011.

February 23, 2015: The government ordered increased security in the south in response to a recent spurt of violence down there.

February 22, 2015: In the capital police arrested three demonstrators who were calling for a public forum to discuss the latest military coup. After they took over in May 2014 the generals banned public meetings of more than five people in the capital, unless the military granted permission. Those arrested belong to a student group that appears to be the last one openly protesting the military rule, at least in the capital with public protests. The military is having a much more difficult time shutting down protests via the Internet.  

February 14, 2015: In the capital several dozen students held an illegal public demonstration against the military government.

February 7, 2015: The government signed a five year military cooperation deal with China. This includes sharing intelligence on Islamic terrorism and international criminals. Chinese and Thai military units would also hold joint training exercises. This deal also serves to put pressure on the United States to not ban sales or military cooperation because of American opposition to the military government in Thailand.





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