Chechen Hand in Thailand Bombings, Expert Says

Chechen Hand in Thailand Bombings, Expert Says
Photo Credit:AP/達志影像
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International terrorists had a hand in helping local insurgent groups carry out the recent spate of bombings in Thailand, one expert believes.

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Southern Thailand's separatist insurgents are becoming increasingly linked to international terrorist organizations, an expert warns.

Thailand was struck by a spate of bombings in August. The latest explosion on Aug. 23 hit the southern Thai resort town of Pattani, killing one and injuring 30. Earlier in the month, explosions rocked Hua Hin, Phuket, Trang, and Surat Thani, leaving four people dead and dozens injured.

Andrin Raj is the Southeast Asia regional director for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals-Centre for Security Studies. The Washington-headquartered organization has offices throughout Southeast Asia.

Raj says that Thailand’s southern insurgents, who want to have autonomy, have had “Chechen influence” since 1999.

"These are localized insurgents rebranding to a terrorist outfit with the assistance of foreign terrorist groups,” he told The News Lens International from Kuala Lumpur. He suggests that the southern Thailand insurgents, acting alone, would not have the resources to carry out attacks in northern parts of the country.

Citing “foreign intelligence sources,” Raj says the foreign influence involved in the recent bombings appear to have been Chechen.

“The localized threat has shifted to an international threat scenario allowing for greater foreign terrorist support for the insurgents,” he says, adding that Thai and Malaysian authorities are investigating whether one of the operatives involved in the attacks is now in Malaysia.

“If the person is in Malaysia than we are seeing some connection to an international terrorist group,” he says.

Local Thai newspaper Khao Sod reported in April that a leaked memo had identified two Russians and two Turkish men, Uighurs and Chechens respectively, were plotting terror attacks on Chinese and Russian interest in Thailand.

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Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像
Rescuers and medical officers push an injured person on a gurney at the site of a bomb blast in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok, Thailand, in this still image taken from video August 12, 2016.

While no groups have claimed responsibility for the bombings, international commentators have pinned the blame on separatist insurgents in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

“The recent bombings used methods of attack long employed by armed separatist groups in predominantly ethnic Malay Muslim areas of southern Thailand,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

HRW says separatists maintain a presence in hundreds of ethnic Malay Muslim villages. Since the escalation of armed attacks in January 2004, “insurgents from the loose network of the BRN-Coordinate (Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinate) separatist group have committed numerous violations of the laws of war,” the organization says.

“Of the more than 6,000 people killed in the ongoing conflict, about 90 percent have been civilians from the populations of ethnic Thai Buddhists and ethnic Malay Muslims in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla.”

HRW is also critical of the junta-led Thailand government for enforced disappearances and torture by its security forces and militia.

“The Thai government needs to respond to these brutal attacks by upholding the rule of law, ending abuses by its own security forces, and addressing long-held grievances in the ethnic Malay Muslim community,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams says.

“Of the more than 6,000 people killed in the ongoing conflict, about 90 percent have been civilians from the populations of ethnic Thai Buddhists and ethnic Malay Muslims in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla.”

HRW is also critical of the junta-led Thailand government for enforced disappearances and torture by its security forces and militia.

“The Thai government needs to respond to these brutal attacks by upholding the rule of law, ending abuses by its own security forces, and addressing long-held grievances in the ethnic Malay Muslim community,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams says.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole