With the complex crisis in Thailand’s Muslim-majority border provinces now in its 5th year and a grim legacy of over 3,000 deaths, opinion is divided over the prospects of substantial improvement, though the authorities claim that headway is being made. This article offers a critical review of policy, key events and discourses surrounding the crisis in the south from the coup of September 2006 to the first months of the new civilian government under Prime Minister Samak. It argues that the southern situation remains intractable for a number of key discursive/political and military/operational reasons, including: the difficulty of combating a war against clandestine, cell-based insurgent groups that employ propaganda as much as violence and show no desire to negotiate; a politics of denial among single-issue groups who continue to avoid confronting the full realities of insurgent violence while condemning state officials as principal aggressors; and the difficulties confronted by authorities in pursuing a dual policy of law-enforcement and “peaceful development” in the face of incomplete intelligence and suspicious villagers. It is unlikely that the lessening of violence will be any more than incremental in the foreseeable future, or that the meaning, causes and solutions to the “fire in the south” will be any less contested.


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pp. 186-214
Launched on MUSE
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