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Thailand

Thailand’s junta has relinquished military rule in favour of pseudo-democracy in which a pro-military party governs with a narrow parliamentary majority. There are no obvious near-term triggers for political turmoil in Thailand, but the country’s fundamental political and social divisions have not been bridged, and there is potential for future conflict. In the deep south, the Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency continues, while the dialogue process appears moribund. Crisis Group aims to reduce the risk of escalation in the south and limit medium-term threats to political stability by supporting strengthened democratic institutions and promoting substantive peace talks. 

CrisisWatch Thailand

Unchanged Situation

In response to COVID-19, main southern insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) announced unilateral ceasefire, halting attacks in deep south, while govt continued security operations. BRN 3 April announced unilateral, open-ended cessation of “all activities” to allow healthcare agencies and other organisations to work unimpeded, move resulted in no evident insurgent attacks throughout April; govt had not reciprocated by end of month. Security forces 30 April killed three BRN militants in raid in Nong Chik, Pattani; one police officer wounded in gun battle. BRN posted video 30 April decrying continued Thai govt security operations. In face of COVID-19, govt 12-15 April cancelled Thai new year (Songkran) holiday; tens of thousands of newly unemployed people had however already left Bangkok following closure of malls, restaurants, and other business from 22 March. By mid-April, some seven million Thais were unemployed, Thai Chamber of Commerce said number could reach ten million in next two months. Govt 8 April announced program to provide relief payments of 5,000 baht ($153) per month to unemployed and others experiencing hardship, for three months; govt swiftly received 26mn applications, far outstripping the nine million envisioned. Hundreds whose claims were denied 14 April gathered at Finance Ministry, hurling angry insults at officials. PM Prayuth caused further anger when 15 April he announced that there were only funds for one month, next day he retracted statement, apologised for “miscommunicating”. Cabinet 28 April approved extension of state of emergency until 31 May.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

12 Feb 2020
I think the reason [for the new talks in Thailand] is that [the Muslim separatists] recognize that the conflict is not going to end on the battlefield for them; it's going to have to end at the negotiating table. Voice of America

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
22 Jan 2020
As difficult as the [peace process in Thailand] has been up to this point, the most difficult work remains to be done. AFP

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
10 Jun 2017
[The Barisan Revolusi Nasional sees its struggle as] nationalist and anti-colonial. Subordinating their struggle to a forlorn agenda imposed by outsiders would be counter-productive, if not suicidal. The Straits Times

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
28 Apr 2017
The militants [of the National Revolutionary Front] continue to demonstrate that they have the capabilities to launch attacks across the region despite of the security measures by the Thai state. Voice of America

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
10 Apr 2017
[The main southern Thai insurgent group BRN] perceive the current (peace) process as one driven by Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur for their own interests. AFP

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
28 Aug 2016
The bombings [in Thailand] may have been intended to compel the military government to reconsider its approach to the conflict in the deep south. The Washington Post

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia

Latest Updates

Watch List 2017 – Second Update

Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2017 includes entries on Nigeria, Qatar, Thailand and Venezuela. These early-warning publications identify conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.

Commentary / Asia

Thailand: Malay-Muslim Insurgency and the Dangers of Intractability

The Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency in Thailand’s South has little in common with jihadism, but persistent instability could provide openings for foreign jihadists who thrive on  disorder. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Second Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to encourage Bangkok to accept some degree of decentralisation and to implement measures that can diminish radicalisation.

Op-Ed / Asia

Government, Rebels Must End Pernicious Impasse

Originally published in Bangkok Post

Op-Ed / Asia

Can Thailand Really Hide a Rebellion?

Originally published in The New York Times

Our People

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
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