Conspiracy, Politics, and a Disorderly Border: The Struggle to Comprehend Insurgency in Thailand's Deep South
Policy Studies, No. 29
Washington, D.C.: East-West Center; Singapore: ISEAS Publishing
This study examines a number of themes underlying the struggle to identify the character and causes of the violence engulfing southern Thailand's border provinces since 2004. It begins by outlining key representations of the southern problem in Thailand. Then, drawing on little-used Thai-language documentation, and on interviews and field study, this monograph focuses on three topics. First, it addresses the prominence of a number of conspiracy theories claiming that killings and bombings have been engineered, in whole or in part, by vested interest groups rather than by ideologically inspired separatists. Conspiratorial models are a dominant feature of explanations of conflict in Thailand. The study argues that the circulation of conspiracy speculation brings into relief the tangible reality of the labyrinthine and disorderly borderland, which is a major problem requiring attention that has long been deferred by Thailand's governments. Second, the monograph focuses on some problematic arguments claiming that Thaksin Shinawatra's dissolution of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center in 2002 paved the way for the current insurgency, and holds that the SBPAC and previous governments failed in the previous decade to detect an emerging new network-based militancy. Third, it discusses the political uses of the southern crisis by the opposition Democrat Party, which was able to preserve its electoral base in the south by demonizing Thaksin as the key cause of the turbulence. The study argues that representations of the southern crisis have been inherently political, and that the major reality needing attention is the complexity and vulnerability of a disorderly, contested, and neglected borderland.