Potential Hot Spots: April 28, 2003


The Islamic separatists in southern Thailand have suddenly become violent. Several dozen armed men attacked two military bases in southern Thailand. Four soldiers were killed and six wounded. The raiders stole 30 M-16 rifles and a grenade launcher. The gunmen were believed to be from the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO). Most of Thailand's 4.4 million Moslems live in the south, on the border of (mostly) Moslem Malaysia. The PULO is believed to be funded by Saudi Arabian religious organizations. It is also believed that PULO made this attack to please their paymasters. The Saudi Arabian religious organizations encourage adherence to a strict form of Islam, and the establishment of Islamic Republics, and the use of religious (Sharia) law. Only a minority of Thailand's Moslems favor this approach to Islam, but the Islamic radicals feel justified in using force and terror to force other Moslems to see things their way. The Thai government has not used force to deal with the militants, but this has now changed. Last week, a riot by Islamic radicals left two policemen dead. The Thai army has a number of commando and elite infantry type units and these, plus police reinforcements, are now expected to show up in the south. The government has also tried to develop good relations with the Malaysian government, so PULO camps in Malaysia will not be tolerated. 


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