Thursday, April 30, 2009

Understanding middle class disdain for democracy

*All Photos Copyright*
PAD thug at Government House, September 2008.

From Foreign Policy titled the Bourgeois Revolution:

"The middle class's newfound disdain for democracy is counterintuitive. After all, as political and economic freedoms increase, its members often prosper because they are allowed more freedom to do business. But, paradoxically, as democracy gets stronger and the middle class grows richer, it can realize it has more to lose than gain from a real enfranchisement of society.

Soon after acquiring democracy, urban middle classes often grasp the frustrating reality that political change costs them power. Outnumbered at the ballot box, the middle class cannot stop populists such as Thaksin or Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Once the middle class realizes it cannot stop the elected tyrants, it also comes to another, shattering realization: If urban elites can no longer control elections, all of their privileges -- social, economic, cultural -- could be threatened.

... And once they turn against elected leaders, angry middle classes, convinced they are right, seem willing to use any means to topple presidents, with catastrophic results."

The author puts forth the argument that traditional champions of democracy - the middle classes - are now turning anti-democratic in a number of fragile democracies around the world.

This is being caused by elected leaders, specifically like Thaksin who had formulated winning democratic electoral strategies, paradoxically showing flagrant disdain for democratic institutions and ruling like autocrats.

Thaksin's impressive electoral success is only matched in the profound disappointment of an opportunity lost.

A strong electoral mandate, sound economic and pro-poor policies, and the 1997 constitution seemed like a golden opportunity for the country.

Yet Thaksin failed, even attacked, democratic institutions like a free press, independent judiciary, transparent election monitoring, and civil society leaving the foundation of a stable democracy in peril.

And as the urban middle classes grew progressively uncomfortable with costly rural development and were impotent at the polls to stop it, the previously unthinkable, a new coup, became a reality.

The leap from opposing military interference in the democratic process to Bangkok residents offering flowers to coup-making soldiers had turned the middle-class-as-democratic-champion paradigm on its head.

(For myself, the most memorable label for such middle class democratic-turncoats was 'tank liberals' as offered by one predominant Thai academic who has now fled Thailand.)

And currently, the democratic institutions that might have served as a means of mitigating the downward spiral of national political conflict have been weakened and delegitimized by Thaksin's misrule.

Now the class divide is coming to an impasse with neither the elites nor the poor willing to negotiate a compromise.

Should the elites proceed on their anti-democratic path, the rural poor will be enraged and increasingly understand their cause as noble and just.

Yet currently, it seems the middle class understands this conflict in zero-sum terms. Everything to lose from one-person-one-vote democracy and very little, if anything, to gain.

So it is likely, in the absence of a creative solution in electoral reform or decentralizing power, that the urban middle classes, represented by PAD, will likely continue with their anti-democratic campaign.

* Hats of to the Bangkok Pundit for pointing out the Foreign Policy article.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Local media no longer feeling the Southern Fire

*All Images Copyright*
Flying over Yala Province courtesy of a development project tour conducted by the 4th Army August 2008.

From the Bangkok Post titled 11 Militant strikes in Narathiwat:

"There were 11 incidents attributed to southern separatist militants in five districts of Narathiwat province on Sunday night, but there were no deaths or injuries. Police said on Monday that bombs were planted in two locations in Waeng district. In Joh Airong district, insurgents set fire to a school and planted bombs in four places. The militants set fire to two transmission posts for cell phones in Ra-ngae district. In Bacho, they destroyed a power plant, causing a blackout of the entire district. A transmission post for cell phones was also burnt down in Janae district, and cell phone signals were cut in some areas. Police and soldiers were deployed to inspect the affected areas."

While it is clear that the insurgency in the Southern Border Provinces is not going away, it is also clear that the local media have lost interest in the story.

Southern militants on Sunday night demonstrated their strength and logistical capabilities by launching 11 coordinated attacks across the province of Narathiwat.

Local media demonstrated their disinterest by dedicating a parsimonious 7 sentences to the event.

While the Thai press has always been Bangkok-centric, there used to be a considerable media presence in the Deep South in the early years of the insurgency (2004-6).

TV stations, like the old I-TV, used to have satellite trucks and reporters permanently camped out at the CS Pattani Hotel who reported daily on the southern crisis.

Now, news gathering is almost exclusively from local stringers whom simply collect the basic facts from military spokesmen and forward that info to Bangkok where it is hastily organized into simplistic stories like the one quoted above.

In depth reporting on the sources of grievance, the lives of residents, or interviews with militants have all disappeared and local media complain that there is 'nothing new to report on' in the South.

Long gone is the national debate on solutions for and goal of understanding the conflict. This was apparent by late 2006, after the recommendations of the National Reconciliation Commission drifted out of national discourse, local reporting on the south became little more than simple reports detailing violent incidents.

Disinterest in the southern insurgency might seem inevitable while Bangkok and whole country is caught in the tumultuous ebb and flow of the Red vs Yellow political conflict.

Yet there is now a slight lull in the national conflict and the Abhisit Government appears to have weathered the latest storm.

There is even some discussion on reforming Government policy on the South.

While the lull in national conflict and window of opportunity for policy change might not last long, it would be nice to see the local media revive their interest and begin to regenerate debate on solving the Southern conflict.

Otherwise, the conflict will perpetually simmer and 11 violent incidents will continue to earn a mere 7 sentences in the local press.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Batman saves Bangkok residents from certain doom!


Red Shirt protesters have commandeered a gas tanker and have threatened to ignite it in a heavily populated neighborhood.

The army and police seem reluctant to use force to retake it.

A dangerous standoff ensues.

Until Batman (or possibly an enterprising firefighter who just happens to have a superhero costume) takes the initiative to introduce a scenario absurd enough to ease tensions so the tanker can be safely removed.

Simply brilliant!

Update: the same guy or a rather cool superhero trend in Thailand?

Silencing the Red Shirts

*All Photos Copyright*
A Red Shirt's hand-drawn flag emblazoned with Democracy Monument at Government House 24 Feb 2009.

From Reporters Without Borders titled 'State of emergency used to censor pro-opposition media':

Reporters Without Borders deplores the censorship, closure and banning of many media linked to the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) since the UDD’s violent “red-shirt” demonstrations in Bangkok on 13 April.

The authorities have raided community radio stations in the north and east of the country under a state of emergency. And Internet Service Providers have been ordered to censor at least 67 websites linked to the UDD, which supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Not only is cutting off 'Red Shirt' media trespassing upon the fundamentally democratic terrain of freedom of speech but will prove to further radicalize the Red-Yellow divide and increase the likelihood of violence.

The majority of mainstream Thai media is either owned, controlled, or subservient to the Government and the interests of the wealthy, largely Bangkok based, establishment.

And their dominant theme lately has been the vilification of the Red Shirts.

Such one-sided reporting only serves to perpetuate an inaccurate and bigoted view that the Red Shirts are just an uneducated simpleminded mob of Thaksin stooges looking for a quick cash hand out.

While this view of the Red Shirts will bolster certain sectors self-justification for their own positions of power and privilege it also has the potential to move towards inciting hatred.

Instead of reporting on the grievances that the Red Shirts have with economic inequalities, democratic disenfranchisement, elite bigotry, Bangkok centrism, or even reporting on the wider demographics of what is actually a diverse movement the media perpetuates the simple view of Red Shirts as Thaksin following uneducated thugs.

This is a dangerous path that not only polarizes the opposing side by failing to empathize and understand the opposition but it is a slippery slope towards vilifying and dehumanizing.

Similar to the crescendo of right-wing nationalist hatred that fueled the massacre of students at Thammasat University in 1976, there is the potential for the one-sided media to cultivate a climate of dangerous intolerance.

Eventually, the genuine problems that have fueled this national Red vs. Yellow issue need to be debated in the media/public and diversity of opinion needs to be freed so that solutions and compromises can be found.

But if the Thai media keeps voicing the same old self-serving beliefs that provides the foundation for inequality and intolerance then they will not only increase the divide that is paralyzing the country but they will foster a climate of hatred, fear, and ultimately of violence.

Red Guars anyone?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Word of the Day: Amartayatipatai (อมาตยาธิปไตย)

*All Photos Copyright*
Red Shirt protester in Royal Plaza April 13th.

According to

Amartayatipatai (อมาตยาธิปไตย) is: government by bureaucracy; government by civil servants; bureaucratic polity.

"The political system called “government by bureaucrats” is a Thai system which is largely controlled by the permanent bureaucracy."

Nick Noztitz writing about the Red Shirt protests in the New Mandala as:

"All speeches on the stage revolved around the term “Amartayatipatai” - the most suitable definition may be “the rule of the traditional elites”, attacking the Democrat government, the military, and members of the Privy Council."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Conflcit and Succession

*All Photos Copyright*
Royal Guards on the march in Royal Plaza.

In Spiegal Online, there is a fascinating interview with Sukhumbhand Paribatra, cousin of King Bumibol Adulyadej, BKK governor, and Democratic Party member.

On the current political chaos:

SPIEGEL: Earlier, Thailand was considered the epitome of a Buddhist tropical paradise. But today the country is mentioned in the same breath as civil war and chaos. How do you explain the polarization of your society?

There has always been a division between the rich and the poor in Thai society, and there always was an extreme gap between the urban and the rural masses. But that has always been kept under control by an unstated consensus on the part of all political leaders that certain things should not be touched. There was a consensus that political leaders may quarrel among themselves, but they may not take their quarrel to the extent that it would have any impact on the monarchy or to the extent that it would aggravate these fractions in society.

This seems to affirm what many people are saying about the old power structures that allowed a high Gini Coefficient are now breaking down and revolutionary change has begun.

On the King's interventions, health, and worries of succession:

SPIEGEL: In times of crisis, His Majesty, the King of Thailand, has often spoken out as the moral authority of your country. Does that not indicate that Thailand's politicians are too immature to lead the country on their own?

Sukhumbhand: Actually, the king has not come out so often. He has only intervened in a few cases. But when he did, it was always important. But, clearly, we political leaders have proven to be immature in solving differences among ourselves. So the king is needed. But the fact that the king is there to help out in times of trouble allows us to be immature.

SPIEGEL: At some point, the king will no longer be there. Will Thailand then slip into chaos when he dies? Are you afraid of that?

Sukhumbhand: Of course I am afraid. I was not afraid before. But now, after a few years of political polarization, I think that this political polarization will become even more violent.

This is the looming issue for many. How the current political crisis has been influenced by, or is because of, the coming succession is a point of debate. But most recognize that the succession has enormous potential for igniting violence and chaos in an already volatile political landscape.

And on who will be the future monarch:

SPIEGEL: You are a cousin of the king. So you know the royal court's rules very well. How is the successor to the king actually selected?

Sukhumbhand: There are generally two possibilities. The king can pick his own a successor ...

SPIEGEL: ... which King Bhumibol Adulyadej has not done yet ...

Sukhumbhand: As far as we know. If that hasn't happened, then a successor must be found according to the palace law of 1926. But that is subject to approval by the parliament.

SPIEGEL: So his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, or one of his daughters would become the successor?

Sukhumbhand: No, the palace law doesn't permit a female successor to the throne.

SPIEGEL: So the only choice would be Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn?

Sukhumbhand: That we know of, yes.

I will sidestep commenting the obvious on the crown prince due to lese majeste laws.

But what is interesting is that succession must be approved by parliament. This is not exactly new information, but it does provide context for why various stakeholders understand that control over parliament is of paramount importance now. It also provides context to PAD's 'new politics' of stacking parliament with appointed seats rather than elected elected seats.

Thaksin claims Thailand's king knew of coup plot

*All Photos Copyright*
Pretender to the throne dressed in his regal best. Portraits of Thaksin for sale outside Government House 2009.

From the Financial Times titled: Thaksin claims Thailand's king knew of coup plot

"Thaksin Shinawatra, the former premier of Thailand, has accused the country's revered king of prior knowledge of the military coup that toppled him in 2006."
"But in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Thaksin claimed the king had been briefed by leading generals and privy councillors about their plans to remove the polarising former prime minister ahead of the 2006 coup."
"According to Mr Thaksin, the coup was presented as a favour to the king, with his privy councillors accusing Mr Thaksin of disloyalty. Mr Thaksin said he had later been told this by General Panlop Pinmanee, who has in the past confirmed that he met Mr Thaksin but denied politics was discussed."

"Mr Thaksin claims that Gen Surayud Chulanont - who served as interim prime minister following the coup - was present at the meeting with the king."

"Gen Surayud, Gen Prem [Tinsulanonda, the senior member of the privy council] and another privy councillor went to have an audience with his majesty the king and told his majesty that they will do a favour for him by getting me because I am not loyal to the king," Mr Thaksin said. "That started the whole process."

Thaksin had opened the possibility for discussing the long-known but never-publicly-disused role of the privy councilors who likely orchestrated the 2006 military coup.

This was unprecedented, and might have escalated tensions, but has been welcomed as many understand the need to introduce some form of open accountability into Thailand's democratic system.

But this latest broadside against the palace is certain to escalate the tensions. As well as further adding to the republican overtones in the Red Shirt movement.

Its a late breaking story here in the Kingdom, but will be read about in the morning and we shall see if it is the bombshell that Thaksin hopes it is or if Thailand's questionable media buries the story.

Rachaprarop action

"Soldiers advance South down Rachaprarop toward Red-Shirt protesters who had just launched a burning bus toward the Army position, 13 April 2009"

Hats off to Mathew Wheller for sending this to me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting Back on Track in Thailand

*All Photos Copyright*

A lone protester in front of the military lines during the so called 'battle of Din Daeng'. April 13th.

Tim Meisburger, writing in the Asia Foundation's In Asia Blog, puts forth four ideas for getting Thailand back on track:

"One way to reduce political tension is decentralization. If people have control over and pay for their own local services, there will be no reason for conflict with other provinces, while democracy and accountability will be enhanced. Political decentralization could also help resolve the separatist conflict in the South."

In total agreement here. The march to decentralization might have been slowed by Thaksin and is now throughly stifled by the military and Ministry of the Interior but it has the ability to mitigate Issan's tension with Bangkok as well as empower the Deep South with the means to solve their own serious issues.

"Another way to reduce tension and improve democratic representation is to allow voters to vote where they live. Currently, many people who live in Bangkok are counted for representation in their home village or town. This means not only do they have to travel back to their home provinces to vote, but that their home towns are over-represented in national government and Bangkok is under-represented. If representation and voting were based on where people really live, Bangkok residents would not feel under-represented, and everyone would enjoy better representation and improved political accountability."

Yes, this is long overdue and obviously results in some curious electoral scenarios.

"Third, for a country faced with little external threat, Thailand’s army is probably too big, and it is certainly too powerful. To reduce the threat the army poses to a democratic civilian government, the army should be reduced. This can be accomplished through legislation, and also by reducing the financial resources available to the army."

Yes but no. Obviously the Thai military's overblown budget, economic interests, Orwellian participation in the media, and their overwhelming political power is likely the single most caustic element in the volatile political mix and the greatest threat to democracy but the real question is how to disentangle them from politics and reduce their grotesque budget. Agreed that this needs to be done but doubtful it can be done.

"Fourth, to re-establish the democratic legitimacy of the Constitution, Thailand should consider conducting another participatory constitution-drafting process, similar to the one in 1997 in Thailand, or more recently in Nepal. After completion of the draft, the new charter can be endorsed through a fair national referendum. Concerns raised about clauses in earlier constitutions can be addressed in a national dialogue."

Agreed. The 1997 Constitution was widely respected with its emphasis on civil society, checks and balances but it was also a time when the military was waning both in size and in budget. I am not sure if there is a correlation with the Constitution and the military decline but the 1997 Constitution - with some thought to preventing Thaksin-style abuse of power - is an essential long-term solution to this ongoing political strife.

"And last, but not least, the most important step required to heal the political divide and re-establish Thailand’s democratic credentials would be fresh elections that everyone agreed accurately and fairly reflected the will of the people. Opinions differ as to whether these elections are so important that they should be held first, as soon as possible; or whether they should be postponed until other necessary reforms have been enacted. If the second approach is adopted, elections should be scheduled as soon as possible, to reassure voters and reduce political tension."

Sort of agree...but the cyclical nature of conflict-election-conflict-government falls-election-conflict-government falls seems assured if a snap election were to be called now. Abhisit also seems to know that his chances of being elected now are slim so there will not likely be fresh a election. What might be better is if current Government can provide limited stability for the short term while engaging in a participatory constitution-drafting process then call for an election, there might be some hope of forming a more stable government.

Also of interest on the Asia Foundation's blog and related to the ongoing crisis are:

Abhisit's Big Test and Skip the New Year and Go Straight to the Hangover

Citizen, journalist, or simply an plain-clothes soldier?

Both Thai Rath and Channel 3 were reporting a story of residents attacking a Red Shirt protester because they were enraged because protesters had hijacked and parked an LGP tanker outside their apartments.

Yet the photograph used to illustrate the Thai Rath story is highly questionable. Not only is the location wrong but the Thai Rath front page image had clearly been photoshopped removing the camera and camera bag to support the 'citizen' aspect. The Bangkok Pundit has a summary and Pantip has the pictures, as does Prachatai.

The photos on left show two unedited photos with the camera bag and camera visible while the bottom image, which was used on the front page of Thai Rath, the camera and bag have been edited out.

While Thai Rath's photo altering certainly supports accusations that they are providing biased reporting of the news to fit an anti-Red Shirt slant, I witness the event and dont believe it was a photographer or citizen.

The 'journalist' was likely not a journalist. He did have a camera - as did many people there - but he did not carry prominently placed ID that all Thai and international media display when working in such an environment. Two Thai journalists who also witnessed it also claimed that he was not a journalist.

But, he also did not appear to be a normal resident. He had merged into the crowd to confront the women by moving from behind the lines of troops, passing through the troops unobstructed and not from either side of the street which did have some citizens mingling about. When he attacked her, he dragged her by the hair back behind the lines of soldiers which parted on either side so he could pass freely behind military lines.

The image here shows the two Red Shirt women approaching the lines of troops and pictured at far left is myself.

This appears to me as a standard crowd control maneuver used to extract instigators seeking to escalate a protest. He certainly appeared to be working with complicit support from the troops.

The events unfolded very quickly and the journalist assembled would have been able to follow what happened next but the scuffle caused the opposing lines of Red Shirts to surge forward which caused the troops to start thumping their truncheons and shields, raise their weapons in the air, and it appear that the troops were on the cusp of a protest-breaking surge forward. The troops, the protesters, people on the sidelines, and the assembled media all turned their focus to what seemed like an impending large-scale clash rather following the fate of the unfortunate Red Shirt protester.

So, as I understand it, it was a simple but violent crowd control technique which then was unethically and inaccurate misrepresented by Thai Rath.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The first casualty is the truth

*All Photos Copyright*
Troops clearing the streets, and myself, close to Government House on the morning of Tuesday April 14th

Over at the Rule of Lords, Awzar Thi writes:

"What all this goes to show is not which side is to blame for the street blockades and bloodshed of the last few days, but how difficult it has become to believe Thailand’s media. Since 2006, when domestic news agencies and many overseas ones fell over each other to enthuse about the army’s latest power grab, the biases of newspapers, magazines and broadcasters have become more pronounced, their coverage more partisan, and their opinion-makers seemingly more sure of themselves even as things get less certain." ... "But instead of offering useful analysis, most newspaper space has been taken up with headlines jeering at the Red Shirts’ failed putsch accompanied by content-free commentary that has at best been infantile and at worst shameful."

How apt.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The old is dying and the new cannot be born

*All Photos Copyright*
Thai troops clearing the city of Red Shirt protesters on Tuesday morning (April 14th) about two blocks from Government House.

Tyrell Haberkorn, at Open Democracy writes:

"Thailand's disorder might be seen in terms of a longer view, where many of its people - under great economic pressures, and amid rooted structures of power - are seeking a transformation in the underlying social and political relations of rule."

She also quotes Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks:

"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appears."

Not only are the week's violent clashes between soldiers and Red Shirts - or the violence unleashed 4 months ago by the Yellow Shirts - morbid symptoms of this crisis but the real morbidity has been the ugly politics that have been used to justify the violent trajectories that both Reds and Yellows are on.

Ugly symptoms like the Yellow Shirts bigoted suggestion that the rural poor should be disenfranchised of their democratic rights because they 'to stupid' or too 'easily bought'.

Or the complete lack of journalistic impartiality that not only spawned the vile propaganda machine ASTV but also infects the whole profession. The English language papers, and in particular The Nation, which have long given up professional ethics are now moving into dangerous territory in which they are have not simply taken sides but are inciting hatred and fanning the flames of violence.

Or, and most importantly, the break down of the rule of law. Not only is it being applied unevenly - leaving Yellow Shirt criminals free to further incite violence - but it has failed to draw a clear distinction between legitimate democratic protest and mob violence. Both Red and Yellow are guilty but the state is at fault. Applying the law evenly is essential but so is dealing with every criminal trespass upon the law. Go to a protest fine - carry a weapon, attack the Prime Minister, or take over government buildings and you should get arrested.

But these morbid symptoms, as Gramsci suggests, are the ugly manifestations of an epic struggle playing itself out on the streets of Bangkok, across the provinces, and dividing the nation which is at the precipice of change.

While Abhisit has pulled his government back from the brink of collapse and the Red Shirts have been cleared from the streets, Pandora's box has been opened.

The old power structures that have created one of the highest Gini coefficients, that is often simplified as a discrepancy between the largely urban rich and the largely rural poor, have been dragged out into the harsh light of day and publicly challenged.

There is no going back from this. Change - in the form of a full blown revolution, in a negotiated settlement, or in a myriad of forms - now has momentum.

Calm has returned, but this is an interregnum and no one knows how long it will last.

This week - in photos

*All Photos Copyright*

This is more of the 'cutting room floor' in which a number of interesting images that have no general purpose other than illustrating the chaotic week will be posted.

Unfortunately, do to blogger's inability to utilize many images and format them with captions, there will not be captions explaining the context of the photos.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Calling it a Revolution

*All Photos Copyright*

Troops at ease outside Chitralada Palace last night (April 12th).

From Michael Montesano in the Malaysian Insider:

"A range of evidence indicates that the country is on the brink of a revolutionary situation. In this context, the fate of the Abhisit government represents a minor consideration.


The Thai military may yet use violence against the red shirts. This may require it to mount crackdowns not only in Bangkok but also across much of provincial Thailand.

At best, such an effort will bring temporary quiet. At worst, it may exacerbate divisions among Thailand’s soldiers and policemen, leading to Thais spilling the blood of fellow Thais.

But revolutions need not be violent. The revolutionary situation on the brink of which the country now seems to stand can lead to a new Thailand, one in which there is room for all Thais to participate constructively."

The whole article is really worth a read and makes a convincing argument that the chaos currently playing out on the streets is nothing short of a revolution.

Red Showdown in Bangkok

After a day of chaos and violence, Bangkok is currently in a tense stand off. Thousands of Red Shirt protesters are in control of a large geographic area around Government House. They have armed themselves and have erected a number of roadblocks around the city. In response to this challenge, the government has declared a state of emergency and it is reported that 56 companies of soldiers are preparing to confront them. It is hard to imagine this scenario playing itself out without bloodshed. The photos here were taken this Sunday evening (April 12th) between 9 and 11 PM around the Government House neighborhood.

Friday, April 10, 2009

An Hour with the Red Shirts at Victory Monument

*all images copyright*
Photos taken at Victory Monument on Friday April 10.

Jatuporn Promphan, a red-shirted leader, addressing the crowd from atop of a large truck.

There was lots of spray painted slogans around. Some particularly nasty comments were directed at Gen Prem...but a little to comically vulgar to post!

Many portraits of Thaksin of course.

Similar to the PAD protests which had masked guards, there were a few choosing to hide their identity.

"I love Thaksin" claims the placard on the policeman mannequin.

Thai TV news carried numerous reports of hospital access being blocked by the protesters but ambulances, as pictured above, were moving freely through the protest lines.

Just before 6 PM protesters packed up with some returning to Government House but, I suspect, most heading home for the Songkran holiday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who is promoting jihad in Southern Thailand?

A photo of mine, used without permission, to illustrate an article calling for jihad in Southern Thailand.

Who is promoting jihad in Southern Thailand?

The short and somewhat awkward answer is: me.

At a recent seminar about the conflict in Southern Thailand there was a presentation about jihadist websites and magazines calling for holy war in Southern Thailand.

One of my photographs take a couple years ago in Pattani province was used, without my permission and without remuneration, in an article calling for Indonesian Muslims to go to Southern Thailand and fight a jihad against the Thai infidels.

Here is the original photo:

The less factitious answer to who is promoting jihad in Southern Thailand is Sabili magazine.

This Indonesian magazine, along with Jihadmagz and other Indonesian/Malaysian websites, apparently has links to the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) and the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah or JI.

They use typical extremist non-sense about the duties of Muslims to wage war against infidels who 'invade Muslim lands'.

To reinforce their argument, they employ widely available footage of Thai military human rights abuses such as the infamous video taken during the crackdown on Muslim protesters in Tak Bai.

They also employ the logic of proximity.

If Malaysia and Indonesia are geographically proximate, the logical destination of jihad for able bodied Muslims from Southeast Asia is Southern Thailand.

The question of whether there are foreign fighters or foreign extremists supporting southern insurgents has always been a point of speculation.

There have been some case like the 'accidental jihadist' that Philip Golingai wrote about and much speculation about tacit support from some in Malaysia but the southern insurgency largely remains an internal matter for the Thai state.

Yet one wonders, as the conflict festers into its fifth year of open hostilities, how long it will remain an internal matter.

*Thanks to P.T. for her research on this matter