Sunday, March 11, 2007

IHT: Is the Insurgency in the Thai South Linked to International Terrorism

Thailand insurgency may have links to the broader world of radical Islam

A shallow river, deep jungles and an old 20-kilometer (12-mile) wall mark the divide not just between Thailand and Malaysia but between Southeast Asia's Muslim and Buddhist worlds.

This ragged stretch of border is being viewed by some as a potential front in the Muslim insurgency wracking southern Thailand, mysterious in its goals and undeterred either by government crackdowns or by peace overtures.

People on both sides of the border share ethnicity, language and religion — Islam. Muslim-run soup restaurants on the Malaysian side are suspected of being funding sources for the rebels, and this has become an irritant in relations between two countries that are mainstays of the Southeast Asian alliance.

Analysts are divided over whether Thai insurgents are plugging into a broader Islamic movement or would rather confine their fight to winning some degree of autonomy. But an Associated Press investigation indicates the separatist rebellion, which has already taken the lives of more than 2,000 people, is making outside connections:

Young Thai Muslims — thousands, by Thai government estimate — are being educated in neighboring Muslim countries and the Middle East, with an unknown number returning as recruiters or actual participants in the insurgency. Some may be receiving military training while abroad.


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