A YouTube video of questionable origin and quality emerged on Friday, supposedly by members of the militant terrorist organization Al Qaeda, issued a threat against former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for his government’s heavy-handed actions against militant separatist insurgents in the south of Thailand.
In the 2:45-minute long video titled “Al-Qaeda video against former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra”, armed men dressed in tunics and headscarves are seen reading a statement while holding up a picture of Thaksin. The message first appears to be read out in a foreign language and then again in English, pledging to kill Thaksin in order “to avenge the killing of Muslims in the South” of Thailand.
The separatist insurgency in the three Deep South provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat has claimed over 5,000 lives (civilians, military and rebels) since 2001 and the heavy-handed approach of Thaksin Shinawatra during his tenure as prime minister has been blamed for escalating the situation, whereas reports of impunity of Thai security authorities and the insurgents’ increased targeting of civilians have deteriorated the conflict.
The video specifically makes reference to the Tak Bai incident of October 2004 when Thaksin was prime minister, where almost 1,300 people were detained after a protest at a police station in Narathiwat and were abused by the police and then stacked on top of each other in military trucks. 78 people died during the transport, the total death toll is 85. It also mentions the current government of Thaksin’s sister Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, explicitly calling it a “puppet government”.
The video was made ‘private’ and later removed by YouTube for “violating” their “policy on violence” on Saturday. Later attempts to reupload the video by other parties have been reportedly met with a similar response. This YouTube upload of the video was live on Monday afternoon Thai time:
While the authenticity of the video has yet to be verified, strong doubts can be raised about the video. For instance, when the statement was issued in English the words did not match with the lip movements of the unmasked man in the video.
Others have flat-out dismissed the video:
Lt.Gen. Paradorn Pattanatabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council, told Khaosod that the “amateurish” video is clearly not a work of Al-Qaeda or any other Islamist organization.
“The people who made this clip are no other than the same group who want to overthrow Mr. Thaksin,” Lt.Gen. Paradorn declared. (…)
“[The Malaysian colleagues] are also aware that right now there is anti-democracy movement campaigning against the government,” Lt.Gen. Paradorn said tartly.
“‘Al-Qaeda’ Video Threatening Thaksin’s Life Dismissed As Fake“, Khaosod English, July 27, 2013
The video was released as Thaksin, who lives in exile since a military coup ousted him in 2006, just turned 64 years old on Friday and Paradorn implies the domestic political situation in Thailand – the parliament will reconvene next week and will deliberate the controversial amnesty bills first – as a motive for the video, whereas Isra News have investigated possible Malaysian anti-government backgrounds in the video (read Bangkok Pundit’s summary here) and Prachatai reports that the user has mainly commented in Urdu (the national language in Pakistan) on other videos concerning Pakistani politics.
Another factor speaking against the video is the particular reference to the decade-old incident of Tak Bai. Also, neither Al Qaeda nor their affiliated Southeast Asian groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah have been overly active in Thailand (even though the latter is reported to maintain cells in the Southern provinces and a main operative of theirs was arrested in Ayutthaya in 2003) nor have they been linked to the insurgent groups in South Thailand, despite past claims by authorities. Also, the insurgent groups themselves have limited their activities to the three southern border provinces – with the notable exceptions of the Hat Yai bombings in 2005, 2006 and 2012 – and never have extended their actions to the capital Bangkok.
While Bangkok is more a logistical hub for terrorist groups, that is not to say that there has never been any terrorist activity in Thailand (I’m looking at you, Chalerm!). In early 2012, the US Embassy issued a warning to its citizens, which was immediately followed by the arrest of a suspect of the Lebanese Hezbollah. A month later, three Iranians literally blew up their cover and were suspected to have made plans to attack Israeli targets in Bangkok. A year later, Thai authorities (namely then-deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung) spoke of an Al Qaeda terror plot against the US consulate in Chiang Mai, only then to bizarrely announce a day later that the suspect had already left the country unhindered.
NOTE: The incident referenced by the video is the Tak Bai incident, not the Krue Se Mosque incident. The article has been edited in order to reflect the correct reference.
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and freelance foreign correspondent. He writes about Thai politics and current affairs since 2010 and reports for international news media like Channel NewsAsia. Read his full bio on about.me/saksith.