Islam, Radicalism, and Violence in Southern Thailand

Berjihad di Patani and the 28 April 2004 attacks

Author: Sugunnasil Wattana


Violence in Thailand's deep South centers on Muslim unrest, which has been simmering since World War II. What was once a low-level secessionist insurgency has now developed into a full-scale conflict and violent campaign that has claimed hundreds of lives in the three southern border provinces. This amounts to the most serious political violence in recent Thai history. The main argument of this article is that the separatist struggle, which was initially based on a Malay national liberation struggle, has taken on undertones of a radical Islamist ideology, and the discourse of the separatist struggle has significantly shifted to that of radical Islamist politics by calling for a jihad against the Thai state, its local agents, and their Muslim allies. This shift is exemplified by a document entitled Berjihad di Patani, which appears to have helped inspire the violent incidents of 28 April 2004. To a large extent, what is happening in southern Thailand follows similar developments elsewhere, both at the regional level and in other parts of the Muslim world. Factors affecting the changing discourse and practice of the separatist politics are both external and internal: the failures of secularist development projects in the past decades, the influence of Islamic radicalism abroad, and the Islamic resurgence and fragmentation of religious establishment at home.
Countries: Burma | Thailand

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