Killing of Thai militants in botched raid reawakens world to overlooked insurgency

 

Pattani

The killing of 16 militants during a botched raid on a military base in southern Thailand has drawn attention to one of the world’s most brutal and overlooked insurgencies.

Just a few hours’ drive from the hordes of foreign tourists on Thailand’s paradisiacal beaches, Malay-Muslim separatists have waged a violent insurgency against the Thai government for over a decade.

In the early hours of today, a platoon of around 50 militants attacked an outpost of Thai marines in rural Bacho district in Narathiwat province. Wearing combat gear and armed with military assault rifles, they swarmed the base from several angles. 

But, tipped off about a possible attack, the marines were on high alert and killed 16 militants without taking a single casualty, said Colonel Pramote Promin, spokesman of the army’s southern command.

It was a rare victory for the military against an increasingly professional enemy. Just last Sunday, five soldiers were killed and five injured in twin bomb attacks in neighbouring provinces.

Analysts fear the latest incident could lead to a spate of reprisals on softer targets.

“The militants won’t take this lying down,” said Anthony Davies, a Bangkok-based analyst for the defence and security analysis agency IHS Jane’s. “I would not be surprised if we see something nasty in the coming week.” 

Teachers are particularly vulnerable. In one incident on 22 December, militants stopped a primary school headmistress in Pattani district as she drove out of the gates, and sprayed her windscreen with machine gun fire.

“Everyone ran outside, including many of the children,” said acting head teacher Malasen Arsan, 38. “I had to pull her out of the car and drive her to hospital. Many of the children were crying. She died on the way.”

Education is a frontline in the clash of identities between the deeply Islamic, Malay-speaking population of the southern provinces, and the Buddhist-dominated Thai government that took over this region a century ago.

Many locals see the school system as a tool of Thai colonialism, forcing a foreign culture and language on their children. Human Rights Watch say 157 teachers have been killed since 2004.

The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has poured money into the region and opened secret peace talks with the militants. But uncertainty over who really leads the insurgency, and how much it has fallen prey to criminalisation and personal vendettas, makes it hard to negotiate.

Ms Shinawatra also faces obstruction from the military. Many suspect it was behind the assassination of local imam Abdullateh Todir in November, who was due to act as a go-between with the militants. His death is believed to have sparked the latest round of tit-for-tat violence.

But Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of the Deep South Watch organisation, remains guardedly optimistic: “This government has a better approach than many in the past. The attacks this week are an attempt to stop the peace process, but many feel it is time to negotiate. They have no alternative.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions