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Communist insurgency in Thailand for Travellers

  • MADMAC

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    For those who are interested in getting a feel for this conflict (which is the root of the current Red-Yellow political crisis), I would recommend reading up on it first. The communist party had a strong following in Isaan, and I have already visited one old battlefield in Mukdahan province. During the 60s and 70s there was a level one insurgency in Thailand, much of it centered in Isaan and supported by the CHICOM government. It never gained sufficient traction, and was ultimately defeated by the Thai Army and paramilitaries.

    This is a very interesting conflict which took place in the background of the conflicts in Laos, China and Vietnam and for those interested in modern history, there are plenty of veterans around to talk to about it. I have really enjoyed doing this while living here. Thailand wisely had an amnesty (kind of like South Africa only it was the "revolutionaries" who were grnated the amnesty) so many of these veterans are free to talk, and will.

    I see a lot of communist iconology in this area that is more than just a fashion statement. Between the large Vietnamese population (Uncle Hos picture is everywhere) and the communist movement and the close proximity of Laos, there are still a lot of residual communist influences here.

    #1 Posted: 18/6/2009 - 14:41

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  • somtam2000

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    Agreed, there are a number of sites in Thailand linked to the PLAT's struggle. Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park in Phitsanulok is particularly amazing. As mentioned by Madmac, Phu Sa Dok Bua NP was the scene of fighting, as were large stretches of Nan province and the remoter parts of Kanchanaburi -- esp. up towards Sangkhlaburi.

    Also, probably less known, there are Communist tunnels outside Betong in Yala province -- they were linked to the Malay Emergency, with Malay communists hiding out in Thailand. They're surprisingly similar to the Viet Cong tunnels in Vietnam.

    Also, along the western border, especially in Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces there are numerous refugee camps that continue to act as resupply camps for the ongoing struggle in Burma.

    Lots more than beaches and trekking ;-)

    #2 Posted: 18/6/2009 - 17:15

  • Thaiman

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    Have just been reading in the Bangkok Post that there has been serious fighting along the Burmese Border between the Burmese army and the Karen.Plenty of refugees heading into Thailand.

    #3 Posted: 23/6/2009 - 15:41

  • MADMAC

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    Thaiman
    Yeah, I was reading that myself. The Karen don't have the muscle to hold off the Burmese Army... really their insurgency is counter-productive.

    #4 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 00:12

  • sayadian

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    Madmac, you say 'really their insurgency is counter-productive'
    I don't think the Karen have much choice. They are fighting for their existence against a vicious regime.Many years ago I crossed over from Thailand to Burma by way of a Karen crossing near Mae Sot and I spent some time with these people. Their backs were to the wall then. All they can hope for is to hold their own and hope for a regime change sometime in the future.By the way their main complaints then were 1.Mountbatten's betrayal(British promised them a State for fighting the Japanese)2 The U.S. was supplying the Burmese with helicopters to fight the Karen because they were told the Karen run the cross-border drugtrade.This was and is pure B.S.

    #5 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 00:31

  • MADMAC

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    Sayadian
    US hasn't provided arms to Burma for a very long time.

    The Burmese government is trying to subjugate the Karen, not exterminate them. So the Karen do have a choice, they choose to resist the regime with armed force, and that is only going to bring more violence into their neighborhood. They can not hold their own.

    Also, I wouldn't romanticize them. The Karen guerilla's have committed some serious attrocities. They are neither a disciplined fighting force nor one that follows the laws of land warfare whatsoever.

    #6 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 02:45

  • sayadian

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    madmac
    I did say it was along time ago I was there.They claimed the U.S. was providing helis for counter drug offensives and that they had nothing to do with drug smuggling.
    'The Burmese government is trying to subjugate the Karen, not exterminate them'
    Hell, if it's anything like the way they 'subjugate' the rest of the country.I think I'd rather make a stand than capitulate to that.
    I don't think I ever romanticised them. Admired maybe because they've got guts.
    'nor one that follows the laws of land warfare whatsoever.'
    I don't know what you mean by the laws of land warfare.They are a bunch of guerillas not a disciplined army.Even so regular troops commit atrocities with impunity and always have.That's not an opinion it's a fact.

    #7 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 14:35

  • MADMAC

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    "'The Burmese government is trying to subjugate the Karen, not exterminate them'
    Hell, if it's anything like the way they 'subjugate' the rest of the country.I think I'd rather make a stand than capitulate to that."

    And they do - but it won't help them and it will only make their quality of life worse. As it has to date.

    "I don't think I ever romanticised them. Admired maybe because they've got guts."

    The Karen rebel movement is a gangster movement. They are thugs. They rape, murder, steal, oppress. They are no better than the Army they are fighting.

    "'nor one that follows the laws of land warfare whatsoever.'
    I don't know what you mean by the laws of land warfare.They are a bunch of guerillas not a disciplined army."

    No political armed movement is exempt from the laws of land warfare. Have you ever heard of the SNM? Founded in 1981 it was a group of Isaaq based insurgents. It DID follow the laws of land warfare, fought a VERY difficult campaign against the repressive regime of Mohammed Siad Barre, and it did not shame itself in the process. Guerillas in the movement who committed attrocities (and there were not many) were tried and executed. They maintained a disciplined fighting force.

    "Even so regular troops commit atrocities with impunity and always have.That's not an opinion it's a fact."

    It's also a fact that in many cases they are tried, convicted, and imrpisoned. There are a number of these in Leavenworth right now. It's also a fact that to commit such crimes is not policy among modern western armies. To compare the Karen movement to a professional military force is not an accurrate comparison - FACT.

    #8 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 16:26

  • sayadian

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    madmac
    Agree absolutely with what you say about modern western armies and I should have added that the majority of atrocity perps are brought to justice as you say.It certainly isn't policy of a modern army but it does happen and lots of guys have got away with it.But is it policy of the Karen? Maybe they've got their rogue elements too.I'd be genuinely interested if you could back your opinion of the Karen with a couple of examples.By the way the guys I met were Christian Karen-I don't know whether that makes their insurgency philosophy any different-just mentioning it.

    #9 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 21:30

  • MADMAC

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    Sayadian
    Tough to find good open source info on the KNU - in other sources there is a fair amount. The press do not report much on any atrocities committed in Burma unless done by the Tatmadaw... for obvious reasons. I'll see what I can dig up on specifics.

    I am sympathetic with the Karen, but not with their armed resistance movement which has brought them nothing but misery.

    #10 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 02:24

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  • somtam2000

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    Agree with madmac re lack of good unbiased info -- a good friend of mine lives on the border and has been reporting on the KNU situation for years -- lots of great stuff, but nary a bad work said about the KNU.

    Perhaps if the Burmese opened the country to journos to freely report on both sides you'd read more!

    #11 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 08:44

  • MADMAC

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    "Perhaps if the Burmese opened the country to journos to freely report on both sides you'd read more!"

    I doubt it due to motivations... but they aren't going to do that anyway. The problem now is it is very difficult for this government to change. It has been thoroughly criminalized as has the entire security apparatus. Too many people have too big a stake in the status quo not changing. Unless the Burmese opposition is willing to undergo some sort of truth and reconcialiation council, like south Africa had, it will be tough to change.

    #12 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 13:11

  • sayadian

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    madmac you say
    'The problem now is it is very difficult for this government to change. It has been thoroughly criminalized as has the entire security apparatus. Too many people have too big a stake in the status quo not changing.'
    Same could have been said about the old Soviet bloc.If you'd have told me 25 years ago that the USSR was going to collapse I'd have thought you crazy.I think you'll get the same popular momentum for change you got in Romania.Hopefully with the same result.i.e. stick the SOBs against a wall...


    Sure but they are in the minority,some thing just seem to gain popular momentum.Look at the Romanian revolution.

    #13 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 00:43

  • sayadian

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    oops forgot to delete the last para.Please ignore

    #14 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 00:44

  • MADMAC

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    "Same could have been said about the old Soviet bloc.If you'd have told me 25 years ago that the USSR was going to collapse I'd have thought you crazy.I think you'll get the same popular momentum for change you got in Romania.Hopefully with the same result.i.e. stick the SOBs against a wall..."

    Completely possible. It's happened in places you've cited, and others as well. But it is a difficult problem set. The guys with the guns are the guys who have a vested interest in the status quo.

    #15 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 03:21

  • BruceMoon

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    As my footer infers, I've done my time in front of and behind weapons.

    I long ago learnt "the first casualty of war is truth" and I dare say it would be helpful to hold this as faith when making judgements on any military endeavour.

    One of the more interesting things I've noted when wandering around hilltribe areas is how quickly these people lose their ethnic identity when $$$'s are on the table.

    Similarly, ideology (especially Marxian based ones) also takes a back seat to $$$'s.

    This suggests the many of the current global struggles take place in poverty, or at least significant discrimination.

    Thus, economic prosperity (but, sadly, neither the Hayekian or trickle-down models as advocated by the US) may well be a means to diminish small regional conflicts.

    Take it from me, there will never ever be winners from war - merely a lot of losers: some more so than others!

    Mmmm!! (can't say Cheers to this topic)

    #16 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 14:25

  • Thaiman

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    Can't see how the situation in Burma will ever change.The Generals live in luxury,in full control, and the rest of the population in poverty.They'll never give that up.Look what happened a couple of years back when there was an uprising-no one will ever know how many people were murdered.

    #17 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 15:42

  • MADMAC

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    "Take it from me, there will never ever be winners from war - merely a lot of losers: some more so than others!"

    I don't know. I have fought in two campaigns, and I would do them both again in a heartbeat. It might sound strange, but my days in combat were the best days of my life.

    #18 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 17:13

  • BruceMoon

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    MADMAC

    What role did you undertake in the 'campaigns' - were you perhaps a dancer?

    Some in this world have to do the ugly, dirty stuff, you know, where people actually get maimed for life, or killed!!!

    no salutaion

    #19 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 17:56

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "MADMAC

    What role did you undertake in the 'campaigns' - were you perhaps a dancer?"

    Several roles - all in the intel field which is where I worked. Except on three occassions on my last assignment when I was a team leaders for a small team of 19 guys... No demand for dance instruction at the time.

    "Some in this world have to do the ugly, dirty stuff, you know, where people actually get maimed for life, or killed!!!"

    Indeed. When I fought in Somalia there was a lot of that sort of stuff.

    #20 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 23:36

  • BruceMoon

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    John

    I wished I could have been a pogo and sat behind a desk during my military endeavours.

    Sadly, the army had other ideas.

    Maybe they thought that if I was put in the 'jay, there might be a good chance they'd not have to be concerned about me for too long (if they ever were).

    #21 Posted: 1/7/2009 - 14:45

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    I don't know what a Pogo is, but I can assure you that while I did spend plenty of time behind a desk, I also spent plenty of time in the field too. I wasn't behind a desk in Mogadischu, I wasn't behind a desk in Iraq and I wasn't behind a desk in the Ogaden either. I did spend most of my time behind a desk in Sarajevo and Haiti, if that makes you feel better.

    #22 Posted: 1/7/2009 - 14:58

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