Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - Thailand
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism|
|Publication Date||30 April 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - Thailand, 30 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48196ca628.html [accessed 10 December 2013]|
Counterterrorism cooperation with the Government of Thailand remained strong despite the September 2006 coup and preoccupation of the interim government with domestic political issues. Thai security forces continued to cooperate with the United States and other countries to deny safe haven for terrorists within their territory. No major incidents of international terrorism occurred in Thailand this year, though insurgency-related violence in Thailand's southern provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, and Songkhla continued unabated, with acts of violence occurring daily.
The December 31, 2006 bomb attacks in Bangkok, which killed three Thai and injured dozens, including six foreign tourists, remained unsolved. Thai officials contended the bombing was related to domestic political issues. The locations targeted in the attacks were not specifically identified with foreign interests or tourists. On October 1, 2007, a bomb exploded outside Army headquarters in Bangkok. Two bomb disposal personnel were wounded. No suspects have been apprehended and Thai officials contended that this attack, like the December 31 bombings, was related to domestic issues.
Thailand's biggest domestic security challenge remained the ongoing separatist movement in the far southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla. This region, bordering Malaysia, has experienced episodic, separatist-related violence for decades among the predominantly ethnic Malay-Muslim population. Since January 2004, violence increased dramatically and continued on a near daily basis. Suspected separatist militants carried out assassinations, beheadings, and coordinated bombings using improvised explosive devices.
A particularly brutal series of attacks commenced on March 14 in Yala province when suspected insurgents ambushed a civilian passenger van and executed the eight Buddhist passengers on board. Subsequently, on March 15, a mosque and a tea shop frequented by Muslims were attacked with grenades by unknown assailants. Thai press reports and security forces attribute nearly all the attacks in the south to militant separatists, but human rights watchers believe attacks are committed by both Buddhist and Muslim groups.
Interim Prime Minister Surayud's efforts at conciliation have had only a limited impact, and attacks continued to occur regularly. In June, Thai security forces adopted a more aggressive approach to dealing with the militants. Security forces began large scale operations to arrest and detain anyone suspected of having links to the insurgency. In late October, General Anupong Paochinda, the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, reorganized security forces operating in the South to ensure better coordination of security operations.
Legal mechanisms to counter the insurgency lagged behind security efforts. Government prosecutors struggled to develop cases that could stand up in court and relied chiefly on confessions in order to bring prosecutions. Police forensics and ballistics work often failed to produce evidence that led to arrests following separatist attacks. Because of the difficulties in bringing cases to court, security forces engaging in operations to arrest militants relied instead on their powers under martial law and the 2005 Emergency Decree to detain suspects without trial.
Prosecutors have had some success in bringing cases to court, however. On July 2, after an investigation into bombing incidents, security forces arrested seven suspected bomb makers at an Islamic boarding school. This case remained in the court system; the prosecution is based on the confession of the suspects. In November, police were able to arrest six suspects after a series of bombings in Yala province, based on forensic investigations.
Thai authorities believe the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Coordinate (BRN-C) is behind most of the violence in the south. The operational arm of this group is the Ruanda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK). Other militant groups active in southern Thailand include the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO), and the Pattani Islamic Mujahideen Movement (GMIP). Because of the transnational nature of the ethnic Malay-Muslim community in southern Thailand, all the separatist groups active in the South may have connections throughout maritime Southeast Asia. Some of these groups may share elements of ideology and general rejection of Western influence held by international Islamic terrorists, but by all indications they remained primarily focused on seeking autonomy for the far southern provinces and historical grievances against the Thai state.
Thailand's southern border with Malaysia remained an issue of concern because of the difficulty both Thailand and Malaysia have had in controlling it. In the past, former Prime Minister Thaksin alleged militants were traveling across the border to training camps in Kalantan, and interim Prime Minister Surayud claimed militants in southern Thailand funded their activities through business operations in Malaysia – an allegation that Malaysia strenuously denied.
Relations between Thailand and Malaysia improved after a series of meetings between Surayud and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi in January and February, in which the two leaders agreed to a series of measures to tighten security along the border. These measures included resolving issues of recognizing dual nationality, sharing information, and initiating joint patrols between Thai and Malaysian security forces.
Thai security forces cooperated with the United States and with other countries to deny safe haven to terrorists within their territory. In the past, Thailand has served as a transit point for regional terrorists, as evidenced by the 2003 capture in central Thailand of Nurjaman Riduan bin Isomuddin (a.k.a. Hambali), JI's operations chief and the architect behind the 2002 Bali bombings. Thai and USG officials were concerned that transnational terror groups could establish links with southern Thailand-based separatist groups. However, there were no indications that transnational terrorist groups were directly involved in the violence in the south, and there was no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai separatist groups and regional terror networks.
There was no evidence that foreign governments provided financial, military, or diplomatic support for militant separatist operations in the South of Thailand. However, PULO reportedly operated openly in Syria, and a number of self-declared separatist leaders received asylum in Europe or were believed to be hiding in Malaysia.
Thai police and security officials participated in USG training programs, and the U.S. and Thai militaries conducted a number of joint exercises that supported counterterrorism. Thailand is a co-sponsor of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. It continued to run training modules for Thai security officials and police that included post-blast and crime scene investigation courses.
Under the auspices of the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Megaports Initiative, Thailand participated in a range of port security programs, including programs to ensure that Thailand has proper controls on the export of munitions, dual use goods, and related technologies.
The Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) acted as the center for interdicting terrorist finance. On October 28, The Ministry of Finance issued new regulations governing cross border cash carrying, bringing the Thai government into line with the Financial Action Task Force Special Recommendation on Terrorist Financing. UN 1267 resolutions were quickly implemented by Thai banks under instructions from AMLO. Thailand engaged with the G8 Counterterrorism Action Group on increasing penalties for document fraud, an ongoing problem in Thailand.
Thailand participated actively in international counterterrorism efforts through Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and other fora, and in January became a signatory to the ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism. Thailand has not endorsed the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).