I spent a great deal of time in the south, in fact I was down there 6 months before I even made it to Bangkok.I can recall this area has been a trouble spot for many years and the CT (communists) even shot up a Malaysian tour bus heading for Betong as long ago as 1985.Now we have the pro-Islamic terrorist threat. Again I can recall the Tahan Pran operating in that area during the mid 80's.and I remember a certain section of road where a soldier was put on our bus as protection (though he was more interested in chatting up the girls-typical squaddie!)
I believe the aims of the insurgents is greater ties to Malaysia as most of the people down that way are ethnic Malay (bumiputra).Taksin poured petrol on the flames with his harsh policies of shoot on sight but I am interested to know the following.
How long has this insurgency been going on for and who funds it, if anyone?
There was a sharp escalation in 2004. The basic cause is annexation and Islam. The region, which is ethnic Malay, was annexed in 1902. After that, slowly but surely Thailand imported Thai cultural and linguistic standards into the region (standard operational procedure for a state to incorporate a region - China is doing it also in Tibet). but Islam assimilates very poorly into other cultures. The Thais used this same method, with FAR more success, in Issan, which historically was part of Laos (annexed by Thailand once and for all in 1827 after a war between Siam and a Laos principality). The people of Issan considered themselves Thai pretty much in an unqalified manner. The people of Pattani do not.
The problem for Islam is Shari'a. No other religion has an equivelent, and Shari'a dictates many aspects of life. Because it's considered from God, there is no room for negoatiation. Thus Muslims have a very difficult time accepting law from non-Shari'a sources. This problem is apparent in many places (Mindanao, Nigeria, etc.) and in Thailand it's the same thing.
As for funding, like most insurgent groups you have a combination between external funding sources from sympathetic groups and internal sources such as drug smuggling, protection rackets, etc.
'The region, which is ethnic Malay, was annexed in 1902.'
Surprises me since in 1902 the Malaya Peninsular belonged to the British Empire. I just can't see the British Imperialists of 1902 giving up territory to Thailand.This is akin to present day U.S.A.allowing Chile to annex Hawai. There must be more to this.
As far as Isan is concerned, yes the people of the area consider themselves thoroughly Thai although they continue to speak their own Laos/Khmer dialects.Unfortunately, the Thais don't see them as true Thai and they became 2nd class citizens.
There is no officially sanctioned religious intolerance in Thailand, there are mosques everywhere so what exactly do these insurgents want.The usual package of Sharia I presume from your answer. I doubt whether the majority in Pattani support them and that the whole thing has been whipped up by the usual suspects, i.e Saudi.
I regularly speak to a friend of mine living in Penang and he tells me things down there are getting more Islamised everyday. Doesn't bode well for the Chinese.
The British claim on Malaysia did not include the independent principality of Pattani . When the border was negotiated (with the British) the current border was the one agreed upon.
"As far as Isan is concerned, yes the people of the area consider themselves thoroughly Thai although they continue to speak their own Laos/Khmer dialects.Unfortunately, the Thais don't see them as true Thai and they became 2nd class citizens."
Yep - this is one of the roots of the Red Shirt / Thai Rak Thai movement (though not the only one).
"There is no officially sanctioned religious intolerance in Thailand, there are mosques everywhere so what exactly do these insurgents want."
Depends on the insurgents. Insurgencies are often ugly movements (one of the reasons it's an illegal form of warfare) that are not monolithic. In many cases (Somalia is a nice, prominent one people are familiar with) the movements have diverse elements. Many will often be motivated by greed and use the political cause to organize what becomes essentially a crime ring (this has certainly happened in Pattani). In principal what the true insurgents want in Pattani is either integration into Malaysia or autonomy from Thailand. Use of Malay in the school system, Shari'a (or some form of it) as the basis for law in the area... a serious or complete elimination of "Thainess" in the culture. But, like I said, if you asked ten people there, you'd probably get ten different versions.
"I regularly speak to a friend of mine living in Penang and he tells me things down there are getting more Islamised everyday. Doesn't bode well for the Chinese."
I get a sense, though, that on a global scale the pendulum is about to swing the other way. Islamists can't deliver on the important things like health care, jobs, infrastructure - and everyone knows it.
From the Bangkok Post concerning the 140th teacher to be slain by terrorists in Pattani today.
'More than 4,500 people have been kiilled and about 9,000 injured in the southern border provinces since separatist attacks started violence afresh in January 2004.'
Pays to be wary down there.
Strangely they haven't attacked tourist areas at all. Certainly doing so would have a negative economic impact as the tourist flow slowed. And yes, it pays to be wary down there, but we should keep in mind that they have not been targetting tourists heretofore, even within the region. But only a fool would be driving those roads at night - that's asking for trouble.