Thailand’s south under extremist pressure

Thailand's south under extremist pressure - December 2, 2003
Assessment of the security situation in the south from the American Foreign Policy Council (dated October 1 ,2003): The Thai government is under increasing pressure to deal with Muslim extremists, especially members of the al Qaeda-related Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network, who use southern Thailand as a safe haven, reports Anthony Davis in Jane's Intelligence Review. However, the Thai government fears a popular backlash in the Muslim-dominated area, which is closer to the Malaysian border than Bangkok, and where government control is weak and criminality is historically rampant.
Thai authorities gained international acclaim for their August 2003 arrest of JI terror mastermind Hambali. The arrest was made in the non-Muslim town of Ayutthya, north of Bangkok. Thailand's Muslim population, who are predominantly ethnic Malays, are concentrated in the south, comprising 10 percent of Thailand's 61 million population. Many Muslims see their community as a target of discrimination by Thailand's majority Buddhist population [which includes most police], and fear that they will become a target of convenience in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. A growing number of Thai Muslims have adopted the strictly orthodox Salafi teaching and Wahhabi doctrines imported from the Middle East.
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