Thailand

Overview:  Thailand experienced no attacks attributed to transnational terrorist groups in 2019 and violence was restricted to attacks attributed to ethno-nationalist insurgents in the country’s restive southern region.  The number of terrorist incidents in the Deep South (the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and parts of Songkhla) in 2019 was the lowest since the conflict reignited in 2004.  Thai security officials remain concerned about the potential for ISIS to infiltrate domestic insurgent groups, although they have maintained that there is no evidence to date of any operational linkages between these domestic groups and international terrorism networks.  Thailand’s principal vulnerability to international terrorism continues to be as a transit and facilitation hub, given the high volume of travelers through Bangkok’s main airport and available market of illegal goods.  Thailand remained a productive CT partner, though the Thai government continues to focus on domestic political challenges as its primary security priority.

2019 Terrorist Incidents:  Overall, the number of insurgent terrorist attacks and related fatalities decreased from the previous year; however, a November 5 attack at a security checkpoint in Yala killed 15, making it the single deadliest attack attributed to southern insurgents since 2004.  Attacks in 2019 were primarily confined to Thailand’s southernmost provinces, although a set of coordinated small-scale explosions in Bangkok in August is widely believed to be linked to the Deep South insurgency.  Terrorist methods primarily included shootings, arson, IEDs, and VBIEDs.

  • In January, a spate of terrorist attacks took place, including a car bomb outside a security base in Songkhla Province that wounded two police officers, the shooting death of four defense volunteers guarding a school in Pattani Province, and an attack on a police station in Narathiwat Province that killed one police officer.
  • On January 18, two Buddhist monks were killed in an insurgent attack in Narathiwat Province, the first monks killed in an insurgent attack in three years.  The attack followed the killing of three imams by unknown assailants in the preceding two months.
  • During March 9-10, a series of homemade pipe bombs exploded in the southern provinces of Satun and Phattalung but they caused no deaths or injuries.  Both provinces border the Deep South, but neither has a history of insurgent-related activity.
  • On May 26, a bomb attack on a railway station in Songkhla Province killed one police officer and injured three others.
  • On May 27, at least two people died and nine were injured when a motorcycle bomb exploded at a flea market in Pattani Province.
  • On August 2, a series of coordinated small-scale explosions took place across Bangkok as the city hosted more than 30 Foreign Ministers for the ASEAN Ministerial and related meetings.  The small improvised bombs caused no severe injuries or damage.  Although there has been no official attribution or claim of responsibility, most Deep South experts claim it was likely linked to the insurgency.  Three suspects were arraigned in November on 11 charges related to the August bombings in Bangkok, including terrorism.  The case is currently in pre-trial examination and the trial is scheduled to start in September 2020.
  • On November 5, 15 people were killed and another four wounded in a late-night attack at a checkpoint in Yala Province targeting police, government officials, and local security volunteers in what was the deadliest attack since violence resurfaced in 2004.  An estimated 10 to 20 assailants used small arms and bombs in the attack.  Although no group claimed responsibility, the attack has been attributed to the Barisan Revolusi Nasional separatist group.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Thailand is in the process of drafting a new Counterterrorism Act, which aims to integrate existing terrorism-related laws into one document.  Thailand continues to apply the 2017-2021 National Counterterrorism Strategy for the prevention of and response to terrorist attacks, but details of the strategy have not been made public.  Under the strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains plans for collaboration with foreign governments.

Thailand’s law enforcement authorities demonstrated some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents.  Multiple entities including the Royal Thai Police, the Department of Special Investigation, and components of the Thai military have law enforcement responsibilities on CT cases.  Interagency cooperation and coordination were sporadic, information sharing was limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with CT responsibilities was unclear.

Thailand’s borders are relatively porous, and information sharing within Thailand and with neighboring countries is limited.  The market in fraudulent documents remained active despite government efforts to crack down on criminal counterfeit networks.  Beginning in 2016, Thailand began to collect and analyze API/PNR data on commercial flights at all international airports.  As of late 2018, Thailand’s immigration system is reported to be real-time connected with INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document Database.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Thailand belongs to the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body.  Thailand’s FIU, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, is a member of the Egmont Group.  There were no significant updates in 2019.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The national CT strategy published in 2017 includes a CVE component.  Thailand lacks a national CVE action plan, but the National Security Policy and Plan (2019-2022) published in November 2019 includes regionally specific security plans that focus on “extremism.”

International and Regional Cooperation:  Thailand is a member of ASEAN, EAS, ARF, and APEC, and participated in international CT efforts, including through ASEAN, APEC, and ARF.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future