August 11, 2016: Bombings in Thailand

Terrorist campaigns occur in more places than you think.

PHUKET, THAILAND — When most Westerners think of Thailand, three things probably come to mind.  First is the cuisine, a delicious combination of spices and aromas that has gained much popularity, at least in Canada, and likely elsewhere. Second are the Buddhist temples that crowd the centre of Bangkok and in other locales.  Thirdly are the beaches and resorts of places like Phuket in the southern half of the country. 

What is not likely to come to mind is terrorism. It is noteworthy that the aforementioned Buddhist temples and the beaches have been subject to terrorist attacks and a long running militancy in which Muslims are one of the actors. Interestingly, there is also a form of Buddhist terrorism, targeting Muslims. And one would have thought ‘Buddhist terrorism’ would be an oxymoron! FYI for more information on the latter phenomenon check out my latest book When Religion Kills.

As it turns out, the southern part of Thailand is predominantly Muslim. 80 percent or more of the residents are Muslim and ethnically Malay and the area was once part of a polity called the Patani Sultanate and only was incorporated into Thailand (then Siam) in the early 20th century. Southern Thais do not feel “Thai” and believe they are an “afterthought” to the capital, which lies 1,000 km to the north. A small number have turned to terrorism to gain what they want: independence.

In part due to a hamhanded Thai response to violence in the region there have been hundreds of small-scale attacks over the past few decades (and a few in Bangkok itself). Most are small in nature and the targets are usually police and security forces. Some target tourist areas. Like the one featured here.

The Thailand I am sure you are more familiar with
On this day in 2016

On this day in 2016 a series of bomb blasts across Thailand killed four people and injured dozens. Four bombs exploded in the resort town of Hua Hin, while several blasts hit the island of Phuket, a top tourist destination, all within a 24-hour period. No group has said it carried out the attacks, but suspicion is likely to fall on separatist insurgents (i.e. Islamist terrorists).

It goes without saying that Thai authorities do not want attacks of this nature to affect the tourist industry, which is very important for the nation. For similar reasons you can understand why terrorists would target it. Maybe ongoing talks between the government and some terrorist groups will lead to some kind of resolution.

I cannot say I am confident of that.

Phil Gurski

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