Islamic Crusades 4: Lessons From the Thai Jihad
The South-east Asian nation of Thailand is 95% Buddhist. Of 63 million Thai citizens, about 2.8 million, or 4.6%, are Muslim. The Muslim population is heavily concentrated in three provinces in the far south where they make up about 80% of the population; Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala. Since 2001 nearly 3,000 Thai citizens have been killed in an ongoing Islamist insurgency in the south. In comparison about 1,000 Israeli citizens have died since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000. Yet there is a drought of media coverage on the Thai Jihad, and few Westerners are aware of it outside of a small niche of blog readers.
Jihadist attacks began in earnest in 2001, focusing on symbols of government authority, such as police and military installations and even schools. 19 policemen were killed in 50 insurgency related incidents by the end of the year. The government reflexively blamed the attacks on criminal, commercial or clan rivalries in the local area. In early 2002, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stated, “There’s no separatism, no ideological terrorists, just common bandits.” In July 2002, after 14 policemen were killed within seven months, Thaksin publicly denied the role of religion in the attacks and was quoted as saying he did not “think religion was the cause of the problems down there because several of the policemen killed were Muslim.” The Thai Interior Minister suggested that the attacks were a backlash against a recent drug crackdown by police.
The knee-jerk reaction of many in the West was to blame the troubles on economic marginalization, but the Deep South’s economy has improved markedly in recent years. Between 1983 and 2003 the average per capita income of Pattani Province grew more than 500%. From 2002-2004 household income improved about 20% in the three southern provinces, compared to 9.4% growth for Thailand as a whole. Between 2000 and 2004 the poverty rate in Narathiwat Province fell from 40% to 18%.
Nor did the Muslims suffer from political exclusion. By the late 1990’s Muslims were holding senior posts in Thai politics, such as Wan Muhammad Nor Matha who served as the Chairman of Parliament and Interior Minister in Prime Minster Thaksin’s administration. The government included 14 Muslim members of parliament and several senators when violence broke out in 2001. Also, Muslims dominated the local governments in the three Muslim-majority provinces and were able to voice their political grievances openly.
And yet, the violence accelerated. In 2002, 75 insurgency-linked attacks amounted to 50 deaths among police and army personnel. In 2003, officials counted 119 incidents, almost a 60% increase. From January to March 2004 more than 600 people were killed in a new wave of shootings and bombings. The mounting scale and sophistication of the insurgency eventually forced the government to recognize that this was more than mere banditry. The Buddhist citizens demanded action and the military imposed martial law in the insurgent provinces. Despite this new measure, Thaksin was not ready to give up on appeasement. He mobilized the nation to fold a hundred million paper cranes as a peace offering. In December 2004, 50 Thai army planes saturated the South with what became known as a “peace bombing”. The Jihadists were not impressed. Hours later militants shot a prosecutor dead in Pattani province. The next morning four Thai troops were bombed at a rest-stop and a local official was severely injured by a car bomb.
In March 2005, respected former Prime Minister Anand was appointed as chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, tasked with bringing peace to the South. A fierce critic of the government’s crackdown, he especially deplored the declaration of martial law. He submitted his final recommendations in 2006, which included the introduction of Islamic Sharia law, deploying an unarmed peacekeeping force, and establishing a Peaceful Strategic Administrative Centre for Southern Border Provinces, an agency that sounds about as useful as the UN.
Also in 2005, General Sonthi, a Muslim, was appointed Thai army chief. In August 2006, following the simultaneous bombing of 22 banks in Yala province, General Sonthi broke with government policy and insisted on negotiating with the jihadists. Sonthi himself admitted he was unsure of who to negotiate with, as the jihadists remained nebulous and seemingly leaderless. Still, on September 22, 2006, he and a group of disgruntled officers led a coup and deposed Prime Minister Thaksin. In November 2006 the new coup-appointed Prime Minister explicitly apologized to southern Muslims. He adopted a more conciliatory tone and committed the government to improving socio-economic conditions and educational standards in the south. The reaction to this apology was dramatic – a dramatic increase in assassinations, bombings and arson attacks. The monthly death toll increased by 30% in the 5 months after the coup compared to the 5 months before the coup.
It would be hard to find a society more alien to the West than Buddhist Thailand, yet the Thai government and populace have gone through an eerily similar progression of reactions in “combating” Islamist violence:
THAILAND: Their first reaction in 2001 was denial; they denied any religious component to the violence and cited economic and political oppression as the root cause.
THE WEST: During the 2005 riots in France, the French government and global media downplayed the Islamic angle. The perpetrators were described as “immigrant youths”, or more seldom as “North African youths”, but never as Muslims, and economic and political deprivation were deemed to be the root causes.
THAILAND: In 2004, facing a spike in violence, the Thai government was compelled to react with harsh measures, but they soon lost their focus and reverted to such absurd gestures as “peace-bombing” the south with paper cranes.
THE WEST: In the months following 9/11, Americans stood resolutely in pursuit of a decisive confrontation with Islamic fascism. Over time the focus has dissipated into weariness over long-running wars and frustration over cumbersome security measures.
FLIRTATION WITH SHARIA:
THAILAND: In 2006 the Thai National Reconciliation Commission recommended the institution of Sharia law in the south as a concession to the Islamists.
THE WEST: In 2006 the Dutch Justice Minister suggested that Sharia law would be acceptable in his country if approved by a 2/3 majority. In the same year the Swedish Democracy Minister said, “We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims, so that when we become a minority, they will be so towards us.” In 2008 the then Archbishop of Canterbury called Sharia law in Britain “unavoidable,” and in fact Sharia courts were recently established to handle civil matters within the British Muslim community and there is evidence that they (illegally) deal with criminal matters within the community also.
APPEASEMENT AND PASSIVITY BACKFIRE:
THAILAND: In September 2006 the Thai military, led by a Muslim, deposed the democratically elected government, and started in immediately with apologetics and appeasement. This emboldened the terrorists and was met by a 30% increase in bloodshed.
THE WEST: In August 2005 Israel unilaterally pulled its soldiers and civilians out of the Gaza strip. Left-wing American Jews purchased existing greenhouses and farms from the Gaza Jews so that they could be given to the Palestinians as a goodwill gesture. Since then they have been converted into terminals for weapons-smuggling tunnels. The concessions emboldened the Islamists who proceeded to shower thousands of rockets into Israel-proper and demanded that the Jews evacuate those areas as well.
- – - – -
The Thai Jihad demonstrates that Islamist violence is not rooted in economic and political alienation, or in a rebellion against Western imperialism and capitalism, nor in a backlash against Christian “fundamentalism”. Islamist violence is rooted in Islamic scripture and ideology. Thai Muslims tend to study abroad in the Middle East and Pakistan. Many return to Thailand to teach in religious schools, passing the extremism to a new generation. Pattani Muslims are reported to have received training at al-Qaida centres in Pakistan and have forged links with groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines and the Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia. This is a global phenomenon; oil money funds radical mosques and schools, locals are radicalised, and violence proliferates. It’s the same in London and Jerusalem as it is in Pattani and Yala.
Perhaps the most important lesson of the Thai Jihad is that insurgent Muslims, who make up less than 5% of the population, have overshadowed the political landscape for a decade – and seem set to continue to do so. It has been the bloodiest insurgency on earth outside of Iraq. It was the primary reason behind a coup that brought down the central government in Bangkok. Those who worry that 3-5% Muslim minorities may significantly undermine Western Europe are branded “paranoid”, “Islamophobic” or “racist” by the media. The story of Thailand makes it clear that relatively small minorities can destabilize a national government and throw a society into chaos, let alone 10% or more as in a country like France.
The sheer brutality of the conflict is extreme even by Jihadist standards. At least 30 people have been beheaded. Up to 1,000 schools have been shut down due to arson or threats and 30 teachers have been murdered. One reason is that Thai Muslims are very much aware that they are on the periphery of the global Jihad, with world media focused disproportionately on the Middle East. They hope audacious attacks will attract more notoriety and prestige to their cause. Another reason is that Buddhists are considered by the Islamists to be idolaters. Whilst Christians and Jews under Islamic domination may choose between conversion, death, or a gradual humiliating decline as dhimmis, idolaters do not have the dhimmi option – they must convert or die.
With all these statistics flying around it is easy to forget that real people in Thailand are being murdered daily in savage fashion. If you have a strong stomach, visit the link I’ve provided to the Zombie Time (*WARNING* Graphic Images, Please Use Discretion) blog for a truly disturbing visual portrayal of the Jihad in Thailand.
Above all I encourage you to research the situation in Thailand further. Spread the word to your liberal friends and acquaintances. They will be baffled when they realize they can’t fall back on their usual anti-Western talking points to explain Jihadist violence in this formerly peaceful Eastern nation.
Short URL: http://www.archive2012.faithfreedom.org/?p=44221