Security


Thailand: Muslim rebels funded by al-Qaeda, claims official




Bangkok, 18 Jan. (AKI) – The Islamic insurgency in Thailand’s southern provinces is no longer a local separatist struggle but part of a broader Jihadi movement, a government official claimed on Friday.

Chaiya Yimvilai, a government spokesman, said fighting the local insurgency was now more difficult as the rebels were receiving money from al-Qaeda.

“The situation has intensified recently because they received money from overseas, from the international terror organisation al-Qaeda,” he said at a media briefing.

However, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont immediately played down the claim and stressed that there was no definitive information to support it.

“They may share the same ideology. We don't know for sure if they are indeed connected,” he said.

Bangkok has always rebuffed sporadic claims that Thai Islamic radicals could be linked to a larger Islamic terrorist organisation, and in particular to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Indonesia-based JI wants to unite countries across South-east Asia into a caliphate. It has been linked to some of the worst terrorist attacks in the region since 2000, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 and injured 200 others.

Using leaflets, Thai Muslim rebels have routinely stated their goal of establishing an independent Islamic state (Pattani Darulislam) in southern Thailand but never stated a desire to create a larger association.

The conflict in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani has killed roughly 2800 people since it erupted in January 2004 according to Pattani’s Prince of Songkhla University's "Deep South Watch" think-tank.

The three provinces are the only three with a predominantly Muslim population in what is largely Buddhist country.

Formerly part of the independent Sultanate of Pattani, the three provinces were annexed by Thailand at the beginning of the 1900s.



 


 

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