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Special Report: Thailand’s Islamic Rebellion

Our partners at GlobalPost explore the increasingly dangerous separatist movement in southern Thailand and how people are responding in a series of reports posted this week on its website.

“As oblivious backpackers party up the coast, an Islamic rebellion roars on with no end in sight. The attackers’ prey? In local jihadi parlance, ‘Siamese infidels’ and their ‘Muslim running dogs.’ In lieu of familiar screeds against Jews, Christians and the ‘Great Satan’ America, these mujahideen call for the heads of Thai Buddhists,” writes GlobalPost correspondent Patrick Winn in the introduction to the series.

An Islamic separatist movement is trying to wrest control of a portion of southern Thailand by using increasingly bloody methods, including beheading Buddhist monks, Winn reports.

One Buddhist grandmother Winn interviewed in the southern province of Pattani said the town’s residents used to coexist with Muslims, but they don’t trust each other anymore since the independence campaign is surging again. She now carries a gun, and explosives by radicals can be hidden anywhere, including in rubber plantations or along the road.

A video by Mark Oltmanns demonstrates what the military’s bomb squad is up against in its effort to safely detonate the improvised explosive devices:

“They used to use simple timers and cell phones to detonate the bombs. When we started using cell phone jammers, they switched to other methods. They’ve now evolved to use remote controls and walkie-talkies,” said Thai Army Col. Thaweesak Chantrasint, commander of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.

Oltmanns reports that incoming prime minister Yingluck Shinwatra has promised greater autonomy to the mainly Islamic region, but only time will tell if that will satisfy the separatists.

More reports in the series:

Part 1: A rebel spokesman explains how the separatists gained their bomb-making expertise.

Part 2: A story explains why Buddhist monks have become targets.

Part 3: Muslims in Thailand’s deep south say they need to constantly explain to authorities that they know nothing of the insurgency, while they find themselves as targets of that insurgency as well.

Part 4: The United States is helping — behind the scenes — with Thailand’s counterinsurgency.

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