THE UNITED STATES has found no links between Muslim insurgents active in Thailand's deep South and any international terrorist groups, according to a report by the US State Department.
The annual report, entitled “Country Reports on Terrorism 2014”, praised Thailand’s cooperation with the US in its fight against terrorism but noted that the post-coup government’s key security priority focused on domestic political problems.
“There was no direct evidence of operational linkages between ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgent groups in southern Thailand and ISIL [the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] or other international terrorist networks,” the US Department of State said.
“While Thai officials have long expressed concern that transnational terrorist groups could establish links with southern Thailand-based separatist groups, there have been no indications that transnational terrorist groups were directly involved in the violence in the south. And there was no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai insurgent groups and regional terrorist networks.”
It also said, there was no confirmed evidence of Thais joining ISIL, although “Thai security officials expressed moderate concern about the threat to Thailand” from the extremist Islamic group. “Thailand’s counter-terrorism cooperation continued to be productive, although domestic political challenges remained the government’s key security priority,” the State Department said.
After the May 2014 coup, the Internal Security Operations Command continued to organise outreach programmes to ethnic Malay-Muslims to counter radicalisation and violent extremism. “Ongoing shortcomings of the justice system, however, contributed to support for the ethno-nationalist insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces,” it said.
Tina S Kaidanow, ambassador-at-large and the State Department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, launched the report in Washington DC on Friday.
Deputy government spokesman Maj-General Weerachon Sukonpatipak yesterday declined to comment on the US report, saying that he had yet to read its original version.
The State Department noted that most terrorism prosecutions in Thailand had failed to prove the necessary element of specific intent and therefore resulted in deportations or convictions on less serious offences. “Law enforcement units demonstrate some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents,” it said.
Thailand is labelled a haven for document forgery in the report. “Thailand has an active market in fraudulent documents. Local law enforcement pursues fraud cases concerning official documents such as passports, birth certificates, and national identification. However, it does not prioritise investigating non-official documents such as financial records, school transcripts and employment letters,” the report said.