Thailand is essentially a Buddhist nation, but their southern region is extensively composed of Muslims. During the past few years, the Muslim south has been witnessed the emergence of separatist forces who seek to break away and create a separate Muslim nation. Thai authorities were shocked to learn that three soldiers and seven policemen were supplying intelligence to insurgents in the deep south. This is the first time so many members of the security forces have ben directly linked to what has become an increasingly ugly and violent conflict. Many Muslims are c aught between fear of the militants and demands for loyalty on the part of the Thai government. The current situation began in January, 2004, when insurgents raided an army arms depot and seized over 400 weapons. It is estimated over 2000 people have died in the ensuing violence.
About 80% of the two million people living in Thailand’s three southern provinces are Muslim. These people claim lack of government assistance and less concern for economic and political rights which undoubtedly has provided insurgents support from many members of the local population. The area originally was a separate Muslim nation for hundreds of years before being taken over by Thailand. The question is whether or not the Thai government is willing to restore Muslim independence or create viable economic and political conditions which would entice people to remain under Thai rule.