Pressure on the rebels
In 2007, the government launched a major offensive aimed at carrying out mass arrests of suspects in the conflict area. Nearly 2,000 people were arrested in two months and the criticism was sharp from human rights organizations. The Thai government is accused, among other things, of various forms of torture in order to obtain information
In recent years, the government has also begun distributing weapons to “volunteers” in the conflict area. In 2007 and 2008, the military hired a large number of these volunteers. They have shorter training and lower salaries than ordinary soldiers and are therefore cheaper to operate. A major problem, however, is that they have shown very little respect for human rights and have also been involved in corruption to a greater extent than other military personnel.
The violence has continued with attacks almost every day. The rebels often direct their attacks on people who work in the state school system, such as teachers and principals. They believe that the school system is part of the Thai state’s tactics to make people more aligned.
Over the past year, the number of deaths in the Pattani conflict has decreased, but whether this means a break in the trend and the beginning of the end of the unrest is too early to say. There is a big difference in the number of deaths depending on which source is cited, local organizations often report a higher figure than national or global news sources and organizations. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of focus has traditionally been on Bangkok and events there, which means that news from southern Thailand is given priority. In 2015, a bombing took place in central Bangkok that received a lot of media coverage, during which time nothing or very little was reported from the conflict in southern Thailand.
The negotiation attempts that have previously been initiated have failed as it has been difficult to identify which groups should be included in the negotiations. The fact that the Thai political system is so unstable reduces the prospects for a good negotiating climate.
The conflict in Pattani is ongoing today and harvests many victims, both civilian and military. Estimates of the number of deaths differ, but it is clear that the situation is no closer to a solution than it was a number of years ago.
Border conflict with Cambodia
Thailand has an unresolved border conflict with Cambodia. This conflict has a decades-long history and concerns whether the Preah Viehar Temple on the border between the countries belongs to Cambodia or Thailand. This issue was formally resolved as early as 1962 when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the temple actually belonged to Cambodia. Despite this, Thailand has claimed the area, and especially the immediate area, which led to strife in the late 1970’s.
The conflict was inactive for three decades, but during 2008-2009 tensions rose again. These tensions culminated in early 2011 when Cambodian and Thai soldiers shot at each other across the border.
For three days in February, fighting broke out and thousands of civilians were forced to flee. The fighting was about the area surrounding the temple. The ICJ ruling does not mention the area surrounding the temple, and according to Thailand, the 4.6 square kilometers are theirs.
To calm the situation, the UN Security Council gave responsibility to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Despite repeated negotiations, the parties could not agree on a peace agreement. Instead, unrest spread to nearby Surin Province, Thailand, where border clashes erupted in late April 2011.
The conflict is not resolved even though both parties have withdrawn their troops from the area.
In July 2011, elections were held in Thailand and the party Phak Phuea Yhai, (PPT) won a landslide victory. The party appointed Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as Thailand’s first female prime minister. During his time as Prime Minister, Yingluck was accused of corruption. The allegations concerned the price of rice, and whether Yingluck knew, and did enough to stop, the possible corruption that was going on when the government carried out a major project that provided grants to rice farmers.
Yingluck’s government was ousted by a military coup in 2014. Thailand has been ruled by General Prayut Chan-o-cha since August 2014. The military promised to hold free elections shortly after taking power, but so far no elections have taken place. According to the latest timetable, elections will be held in the second half of 2016. Regardless of when the next free elections are held, it is clear that the Thai political system is fragile and that the risk of mass demonstrations and violence is constantly present.
The conflict in Pattani continues, the negotiations that have taken place do not seem to lead to a peaceful solution. Although the reported death toll is declining, the situation remains uncertain for both the civilian population and government employees in the southern provinces on the border with Malaysia.
Sweden and Thailand
Diplomatic relations between Sweden and Thailand were established as early as 1883. Relations have a focus on trade and tourism. A total of about ten Swedish companies have production in the country. The number of Swedish subsidiaries or representative offices amounts to about 60. A Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce was registered in 1989 in Bangkok. There is also a Swedish-Thai Chamber of Commerce in Ragunda municipality, Jämtland, which was founded in 1997. In 2013, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, together with five ministers, visited Stockholm.