Overview: Thailand did not experience any attacks attributed to transnational terrorist groups in 2021, and violence was limited to attacks attributed to ethnonationalist insurgents in the country’s Deep South (the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and parts of Songkhla). Violence levels in the Deep South in 2021 were higher than the previous year but remained at historically low levels since the conflict reignited in 2004. There is no evidence to date of any operational linkages between domestic insurgents and international networks. The reopening of Thailand’s borders and loosening of COVID-related travel restrictions has increased the risk of Thailand’s becoming a transit and facilitation hub given the high volume of travelers through Bangkok and the available market of illegal goods. Thailand remained a productive counterterrorism partner in 2021, though the Thai government continued to focus on domestic political challenges as its primary security priority.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: Insurgent attacks and related fatalities in 2021 increased from the previous year but were confined to Thailand’s southernmost provinces. Insurgents predominantly used small arms, IEDs, and VBIEDs. Incidents included the following:
- On January 31, an IED wounded eight police officers in Narathiwat province as they responded to a suspected arson attack on a cellular communications tower. Police found three more IEDs near the scene.
- On February 25, a combined IED and small arms attack killed two paramilitary rangers and wounded one in Narathiwat province.
- On March 19, an IED injured six territorial defense volunteers in Yala province. • On August 3, an armed group attacked a military river outpost in Narathiwat with grenades and small arms, killing one and wounding four others. Media reported the attack was launched from across the river in Malaysia.
- On September 28, an IED killed two police officers and wounded four in Narathiwat province. During a raid in Narathiwat on the same day, two paramilitary rangers and six suspected insurgents were killed in a series of clashes. Two days later, armed men attacked a security checkpoint with IEDs and small arms, wounding a police officer, a defense volunteer, and three villagers.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Thailand is in the process of drafting a new Counterterrorism Act, which aims to combine existing terrorism-related laws into one document, although no progress was reported in 2021. Thailand is drafting its next four-year National Counterterrorism Strategy for preventing and responding to terrorist attacks following the conclusion of the period of performance of its 2017-21 strategy document. Details have not been made public. Under the previous strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintained plans for collaboration with foreign governments.
Thailand’s law enforcement authorities continue to demonstrate 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 counterterrorism cases. Interagency cooperation and coordination were sporadic, information sharing was limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with counterterrorism 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. Since 2016, Thailand has collected and analyzed API/PNR data on commercial flights at all international airports. As of late 2018, Thailand’s immigration system was real-time connected with INTERPOL’s stolen and lost travel document database.
Thailand hosted and participated in courses offered at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, which included relevant training on narcotics investigations, media relations, leadership, financial investigations, cyber investigations, human trafficking investigations, arms trafficking investigations, wildlife trafficking investigations, tactical safety, personnel and physical security, radiological and nuclear material detection, post-blast investigations, and border interdictions.
On November 4, the Cabinet approved Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO)- proposed amendments to the anti-money-laundering law to bring it in line with international standards on countering money laundering and combating financing of terrorism. The draft bill aims to help Thailand become a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) by 2023.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body, which commits to the effective implementation and enforcement of FATF’s internationally accepted standards against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. AMLO is Thailand’s financial intelligence unit and a member of the Egmont Group. Thailand does not have a significant unregulated informal banking and money transfer system that could aid terrorism financing activities. In cases where the central bank (the Bank of Thailand) has discovered unauthorized remittances, it has coordinated with the police to arrest the offenders.
Thailand, through AMLO, has promptly issued designation orders each time the UN has made a change to the list of designated persons or entities pursuant to UNSCRs 1373, 1267, and 1988, passed the updates to all relevant agencies through the electronic gateway by secure email, and published an updated consolidation of all designations on the AMLO website. If any transaction was found by the designated person or entity under the UNSCRs, AMLO would freeze those assets. Thailand displays a generally high level of political commitment to combating terrorist financing and demonstrates generally good compliance.
Countering Violent Extremism: The national counterterrorism strategy published in 2017 included a CVE component. Thailand lacks a national CVE action plan, but the National Security Policy and Plan published in 2019 (2019-22) includes regionally specific security plans that focus on violent extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Thailand is a member of regional and international multilateral fora, through which it participates in counterterrorism efforts, including ASEAN, ADMM, ARF, APEC, and the East Asia Summit.