In Thailand’s Muslim-dominated south, an increasingly violent insurgency is behind the nearly daily beheadings, murders, arson, and drive-by shootings in an attempt at ethnic cleansing.
While the majority of Thailand’s 65 million people are Buddhists, around 1.3 million ethnic Malay Muslims live in the south. Most identify more with Muslim Malaysia and the Melayu language than with Thai Buddhists. The shadowy insurgents have never identified themselves nor made any public demands. Officials and analysts widely believe they want to establish a separate Islamic state.
The insurgents attack symbols of the government, including the armed forces, schools, businesses, workers in critical industries such as rubber, and places deemed un-Islamic, like bars that serve alcohol. They also kill Muslims viewed as government collaborators.The insurgents, however, primarily target Buddhists in what is believed to be an attempt to drive them from the region. Officials estimate tens of thousands have fled. Many of the Buddhist temples here have closed and all are heavily guarded.