Changing Nature of Insurgency: Part 3By Bangkok Pundit May 20, 2007 12:06AM UTC
This is part 3 of a multi-part series on the changing nature of the insurgency in Southern Thailand. Part 1 was an introduction and is available here. Part 2 looked at attacks against Buddhists and Buddhist monks and is available here.
Part 3 (below) will look at attacks against Muslims and teachers. Part 4 will give some commentary on the changing nature of the insurgency.
Teachers began to be targeted in 2004.
From the BBC on 9 June 2004:
More than 3,000 teachers in southern Thailand have held a rally to demand better security after one of their colleagues was shot dead two days ago.
“We would like to see more security personnel and more frequent patrols,” said one of the leaders of the rally.
A wave of violence has hit the Muslim-dominated south in recent months, targeting police, teachers and monks.
In the latest incident, a teacher at a school in Pattani was shot dead in front of his students on Monday.
The rally took place in Pattani, one of four southern provinces affected by the violence, which has been blamed on Muslim militants.
The government has tried to step up security in southern schools in recent months, after a number of threats to teachers and students, as well as arson attacks on school buildings.
At least 1,000 soldiers and police have been deployed in schools since the academic year began in mid-May.
COMMENT: Please see my previous post on attacks against schools as I will focus below on attacks against teachers specifically. Primarily, because prior to 2004 schools were also targeted although certainly not in the frequency that they are being targeted now, but teachers were not a target. They are now and are being targeted in increasing numbers. By July 2005, teachers were being killed at around one per month, but this had changed by December 2006:
Of the 59 teachers killed in the three southern border provinces since January last year, four were murdered this month alone, he [Thawat sae Um, head of the Teachers Federation in Narathiwat] said.
By May 2007 this had increased to 71 as The Nation reports:
A total of 71 teachers have been killed and 68 wounded in shooting and bomb attacks, said Pradit Rasittanont, director of the regional education office.
With teachers being targeted by the insurgents, teachers in the southern border provinces are fearful for their lives and many are leaving as The Times (UK) reported in July 2006:
The kidnapping of teachers has become their latest tactic, often in retaliation after suspected insurgents are detained. If they survive, abducted teachers are often beaten. Last month a female art teacher suffered a fractured skull.
Many teachers, Buddhist and Muslim alike, have transferred to safer areas. Mr Tongsuwan agonised over leaving but decided that his pupils needed him, although he acknowledged that he has had to put up with levels of stress he never expected.
His hands never stop trembling and he constantly scratches the eczema covering his arms while he describes the terrors of running his school, a few miles from Narathiwat Town.
None of the teachers there have been killed, but many have quit, leaving an understaffed contingent to do its best. He keeps his pistol with him in the classroom, usually out of sight.
Smart, well-behaved pupils in the playground look like their counterparts in any other Thai school, but many have witnessed violence and suffer behavioural problems.
“It is hard,” he said, “and I never thought that teaching would be dangerous like this. But we must do our duty.”
Teachers have reverted to carrying guns as Asianews reports:
In Chulabhorn Naval Base (Narathiwat province) in the Gulf of Thailand, about 100 men and women teaching in public schools are taking lessons. For them carrying a weapon has become an “essential” part of their work.
Since January 2004 violence between Islamic insurgents and law enforcement agencies has caused more than 1,700 deaths in the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, the only Thai provinces with a Muslim majority in an otherwise Buddhist nation.
Sanguan Jintarat, head of the teachers association (15,000 members) in these troubled provinces, said the choice is between “having a gun or die“.
Thousands of teachers are now carrying weapons, many without a proper permit. Many more have applied for a permit. Guns top the list as weapon of choice, because they are easier to carry and handle than rifles. The army is selling 9 mm Steyr pistols for 18,000 bath (US$ 480), a quarter of the normal market price.
However, it is not just the number of teachers which have been killed, but the brutal nature of the attacks. One prominent case is that of Juling
AP on her death in January 2007:
A Buddhist teacher who was savagely beaten by a mob of Muslim villagers in restive southern Thailand last year died Monday after spending almost eight months in a coma, her doctor said.
Juling Kamphongmoon, an elementary school art teacher, was clubbed May 19 by a village mob until her skull shattered after being taken hostage in her classroom in Narathiwat province.
While Khru Juling was only one victim of the violence, her death attracted public attention and became a rallying point. The Nation in January 2007:
HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralong-korn and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn represented their Majesties the King and the Queen yesterday, presiding over the royal-sponsored cremation of teacher Juling Panganmoon, who died a victim of the ongoing strife while working in the troubled South.
The nation extended condolences for the Chiang Rai native also, with activities to commemorate her death taking place throughout Thailand.
More than 1,000 people, including teachers, school and government officers from all over the country joined the cremation to bid farewell for Khru (“teacher”) Juling at Wat Pongsanook in Chiang Rai’s Doi Luang subdistrict.
Yesterday was Teachers’ Day in Thailand.
The Prime Minister attended the ceremony and granted the Idealistic Teacher award to the slain teacher’s family. Juling was the first teacher to receive the newly-established award for teachers who demonstrate unusual idealism and commitment in the course of their duties.
COMMENT: That was no ordinary funeral.
Another example of a violent attack against teachers is this attack against a school principal from November 2006:
Insurgents shot a school director Friday afternoon in southern Thailand then set his vehicle on fire killing him in the flames, the English-language Bangkok Post newspaper website reported.
Police said the director of a school in Pattani province, 750 kilometres south of Bangkok, was shot in his pickup truck while driving out of school.
He was wounded but not killed in the shooting before insurgents set his pickup truck on fire. He was burned alive inside the truck.
The reason why teachers are being targeted is that they are symbols of the central Thai government – historically, it was only schools that were targeted for the same reason.
Chaiwat Satha-Anand in the Bangkok Post in 2005:
It goes without saying that apart from their vulnerability, teachers have become targets of violence because of they are seen as representing the state in one of its most significant function: education.
However, there is another reason as AP reports:
Teachers may be targets, officials say, because they are symbols of the central government’s authority, or be taken hostage to be traded for captured insurgents, or because the militants want to do away with secular schools, sending the message that only Islamic schools — which have been spared violence — are safe.
Zachary Abuza also expands on this:
Third, teachers and schools, those vulnerable agents of secularization and assimilation, continue to be prime targets of the insurgents. This has both eroded the social fabric of the region, while at the same time, forced the Muslim population to send their children to the private Islamic schools favored by the insurgents.
This is similar to what Dr. Douglas Macdonald of the Strategic Studies Institute stated in this report (PDF):
The major goal of the Islamist strategy is to alter the social identities of the Muslim world to the point that their first loyalty will not be communal (family, tribe, clan, sect, region) nor national, but Islamist, transnational, and civilizational. Thus
unified, the Muslim world will be ready to confront other civilizations, especially the West.
Because secular schools are major transmitters of nonreligious, nationalist social identity, they are often the targets of the Islamists. This can be seen in Thailand, which has one of the most violent insurgencies in Southeast Asia.
The reason that the terrorists need to do this through violence is that not all parents want to send their children to Islamic schools. As Dr Joseph Liow states in this article in 2004:
Second is the popular perception that Muslim parents prefer to send their children to pondok rather than state schools. This, too, is not entirely so. Recent research conducted by the Prince of Songkhla University (Pattani) has found that up to 64% of the people desire general education for their children. Nevertheless, they also want secular education to be balanced with religious instruction from the pondok
Remove the government schools and you remove the choice for parents. Simple really.
Dr Srisompob Jitpiromsri and Panyasak Sobhonvasu (“Unpacking Thailand’s southern conflict: The poverty of structural explanations” Critical Asian Studies 38:1 (2006), p95-117) explains one of the reasons why Muslims are being targetted:
The growth of this Muslim-on-Muslim violence is one of the most important trends in the data. In the eyes of their Muslim assailants, most of these victims may have been seen as “hypocritical” collaborators with the Thai authorities.
AP also reports that the level of collaboration required for Muslims to be killed is rather low:
More than half the victims have been Muslims suspected of collaborating with authorities — teachers, civil servants, policemen.
In one recent incident, says army Lt. Jenkila Somboon, three Muslim rubber tappers were shot to death because their village was getting too friendly with the soldiers.
Below are four charts I have created from different reports prepared by Dr. Srisompob and his research team over different periods. I don’t have the individual monthly breakdowns just the totals for Jan 04-Jun 05 (academic access only, p98), Jan 04-Aug 06, and Jan 04-Nov 06.
[UPDATE: Some notes about the figures from Dr Srisompob's article (academic access only, p98):
These figures do not include the 187 deaths in two major incidents: the 28 April 2004 incidents (involving coordinated attacks on various security posts) and the Tak Bai incident of 25 October 2004 (when a demonstration in front of Tak Bai’s police station was suppressed by the security forces and dozens of those arrested died, mainly due to suffocation). We exclude these cases because the definition of violence used here applies to attacks on private citizens and government personnel by nonstate actors.
So the below figures do not include death attributed by the authorities. I should note that the same Dr Srisompob article (at page 114) states for Jan 04-Jun 05:
83.4 percent of the attacks (1017 cases) were attributed to militants or insurgent groups, 15.2 percent cases (185 cases) were regarded as criminal or personal conflict cases, 1.4 percent of the attacks were believed to have been carried out by the authorities.
I have access to a later report by Dr Srisompob for Jan 04-Dec 05 where the percentage of attacks by insurgents had increased to 85%. Also, see this post on this topic.]
The first two charts below are complete running totals, Jan 04-Jun 05, Jan 04-Aug 06, Jan 04-Nov 06time period from Jan 04 – Nov 06.
For Jan 04-Jun 05, the total number of persons killed was 697. For Jan 04-Aug 06, this increased to 1658. For Jan 04-Nov 06, this increased to 1908.
NOTE: Victims = those killed. The injured are in a separate category which I look at briefly below.
Overall for the entire period, the percentage of Muslims (51%)killed is greater than the percentage of Buddhists killed (43%). However, you will note that since September 2006 (including prior to the 19 Sep and afterwards) the percentage of Muslims has decreased (see fig 4 below).
The next two charts are divided up by different time periods, Jan 04-Jun 05, Jul 05-Aug 06, Sep 06-Nov 06 although over the same time period.
NOTE: I am not quite sure why the dramatic increase in the number of unidentified victims at the end of 2006.
Obviously, fig. 4 shows the number of Muslims each month increasing then dramatically decreasing at the end of 2006 although number of total victims each month greatly increased.
NOTE: I have removed the “unidentified” category from fig 4.
While Muslims make up the majority of the victims of the terrorists, they are also make up the majority of the population in the 3 southern border provinces. Between 78.2% (academic access only, p102 – from 2000 Census) and 85% of the population in the 3 southern border provinces are Muslims. This means only 15-22% of the population in the 3 southern border provinces are Buddhists. However, Buddhists make up a significant percentage of teachers, soldiers, police, and other government officials in the southern border provinces and given these groups have been targeted by the terrorists (47% of victims are civilians, other government officials/defence volunteers/government employees make up the other 53%), it is not surprising that the percentage of Buddhists killed is greater than their percentage of the population.
I should note that for the period Jan 04 – Aug 06, 1474 Buddhists were injured compared to 718 Muslims (Deep South Watch, 32 Month Report).