Counterterrorism cooperation with Thailand remained strong despite internal political conflict. While officials have long expressed concern that transnational terrorist groups could establish links with southern Thailand-based separatist groups, there have been no indications that transnational terrorist groups are directly involved in the violence in the south, and there is no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai insurgent groups and regional terrorist networks.

The ethno-nationalist separatist insurgency in Thailand's southernmost provinces of Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala continued in 2009. Some 4,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the violence escalated in 2004 with a campaign of assassinations, beheadings, and coordinated bombings using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Levels of violence rose in 2009 after a decrease in 2008, with larger explosive devices employed. Thai press reports and security forces attributed nearly all the attacks in the south to insurgents; it is unclear, however, how much of the violence was attributable to crime and other political or business disputes. It was reasonably clear that there were overlaps between the groups conducting criminal activities and those who were manufacturing IEDs.

A range of Thai government agencies, including the Ministries of Interior and of Social Development and Human Security, and the Thai military and police academies continued to organize outreach programs to ethnic Malay-Muslims to counter radicalization and violent extremism.

The porous nature of Thailand's southern border with Malaysia remained an issue of concern. In April, Thai Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara and Malaysian defense forces chief Haji Zainal agreed to closer intelligence sharing to improve border security. At the same time, cross-border law enforcement cooperation based on long association between Thai and Malaysian police officers was surprisingly good, even though it was conducted in a very low-tech manner. In a December meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva agreed to improve security in the border area by linking the Smart Card system of Thailand to MyKad system of Malaysia to prevent border residents from holding dual citizenship. In early 2009, Thailand began conducting joint sea and air patrols of the Malacca Strait with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in a program that includes "Eyes in the Sky" and intelligence exchange programs.

Legal mechanisms to counter the southern Thai insurgency lagged behind security efforts, but showed signs of improvement. Government prosecutors still struggled to develop cases that could stand up in court, relying chiefly on confessions as evidence. Through a U.S. Embassy initiative, the Thai judiciary was soliciting consultations with judges from the U.S., Northern Ireland, and the Middle East, seeking to distill the experiences of judges working in areas of religious and ethnic conflict into new approaches to Thailand's Muslim population.

Police forensics and ballistics work often failed to produce viable evidence leading to convictions following separatist attacks. There was an 80 percent acquittal rate in insurgency-related indictments in the south, chiefly due to poor evidence. While this may have spoken to the integrity of the judiciary, it also spoke to the low capacity of police and prosecutors. The security environment in the three insurgency-affected provinces in the south has resulted in some innovative police work, including specialized task forces and twice-weekly reviews of the character and quality of evidence in each ongoing terrorism-related case – something the Thai police would do well to emulate nationwide. Because of the difficulties in bringing cases to court, security forces engaging in operations to arrest militants relied on powers under martial law and the 2005 Emergency Decree to detain suspects, who can be held for a total of 37 days without being charged with a crime. There were various legal means available to extend that period.

Thai security forces cooperated with the United States and with other countries to deny safe haven to terrorists. 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 police, security officials, and court system personnel participated in a series of U.S. training programs sponsored through the Antiterrorism Assistance Program, the Force Protection Detachment (the criminal justice sector capacity-building programs for police, prosecutors, and judiciary mounted by the Transnational Crime Affairs Section), and the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. Training modules included courses on post-blast investigations, interrogation and interview techniques, forensic science, law enforcement response to terrorism, community policing, humane crowd control, training in SWAT tactics, and the Antiterrorism Executive Forum. The United States and Thai militaries cooperated in a series of training events and exchanges designed to build counterterrorism capacity.

The Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is Thailand's official Financial Intelligence Unit. Thailand has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force's Egmont Group since June 2001. AMLO, the Bank of Thailand, and the Securities and Exchange Commission are empowered to supervise and examine financial institutions for compliance with anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financial laws and regulations. Capacity-building for this office and the Ministry of Justice's Department of Special Investigations continued, with training in cyber-crime.

Ministry of Finance regulations governing cross border cash carrying are in line with the Financial Action Task Force Special Recommendation on Terrorist Financing. The Bank of Thailand has issued instructions to financial institutions to comply with FATF recommendations on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism.

The Thai government continued to cooperate on the extradition case involving international arms trafficker Victor Bout, who is under federal indictment in New York for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and officers; acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles; and provide material support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008, and formal extradition proceedings took place in the Thai Criminal Court from June 2008 until May 2009. In August, the Criminal Court denied the extradition request based primarily on its conclusion that the U.S. indictment charged "political" rather than criminal offenses. The Thai government has appealed this decision. Bout remained in custody at a maximum-security prison in Bangkok.

Thailand participated actively in international counterterrorism efforts through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, and other multilateral fora.


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