USDOS – US Department of State (Autor)
Overview: Thailand remains a productive counterterrorism partner, although the government continued to focus on domestic political challenges as its key security priority. As of late 2015, Thai security officials expressed moderate but growing concern about the threat to Thailand from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), following reports of fighters from neighboring Southeast Asian nations traveling to the Middle East. However, there is no confirmed evidence of Thai citizens joining ISIL, and no evidence of operational linkages between ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgent groups in southern Thailand and ISIL or other international terrorist networks. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly condemned ISIL violence against civilians.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: On February 1, two pipe bombs exploded outside a popular shopping mall in Bangkok, and on March 7, a small grenade detonated at a courthouse in Bangkok. Both incidents resulted in no casualties. Following the incidents, Thai police detained four suspects, and claimed the attacks were politically motivated and intended to undermine the government.
On August 17, an explosion in Bangkok killed 20 and injured more than 120 at the Erawan Shrine, a downtown tourist destination popular with Thai and Chinese tourists. On August 18, a second explosion occurred near Saphan Taksin, a pier popular with tourists, but did not result in any damage or casualties. Thai authorities released surveillance camera footage showing two suspects leaving backpacks, believed to contain the explosives, at each location. Thai investigators later arrested two Chinese Uighur suspects. In early December, a Thai woman and a Turkish man were detained in Turkey in connection with the bombings and were awaiting extradition to Thailand. Thai authorities claimed the motive for the attacks was retaliation for the government crackdown on human trafficking, and have not charged any of the suspects with terrorism. It has been widely reported that the attacks were related to the July 2015 forced deportation of a group of Uighur migrants to China.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Thailand incorporated terrorism offenses into its penal code in 2003, but most terrorism prosecutions fail to prove the necessary element of specific intent and therefore result in deportation or a conviction on less serious offenses.
Competing domestic priorities, political sensitivities, and resource constraints contributed to a less aggressive approach to counterterrorism efforts on the part of the Thai government. Thailand’s law enforcement units demonstrated some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Multiple entities – including the Royal Thai Police (RTP), Department of Special Investigations, and elements of the Thai military – have law enforcement responsibilities on counterterrorism cases. Interagency cooperation and coordination is sporadic, information sharing is limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with counterterrorism responsibilities was unclear. Biannual reshuffles of senior government and security officials hampered continuity in leadership.
Law enforcement officials with counterterrorism responsibilities received U.S. training through the Bangkok-based joint U.S.-Thai International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) and Department of State-funded training programs. Additionally, Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) training programs were designed to enhance RTP capacity to combat terrorism.
Land borders are relatively porous. In June 2012, the Thai government removed the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) from eight major points of entry and installed an inferior, locally developed program. In early 2015, the Thai government also removed PISCES from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and replaced it with the same locally developed program. All passengers originating in Thailand traveling to or overflying the United States will continue to be vetted through the Secure Flight Program. Thailand has an active market in fraudulent documents. Information sharing with neighboring countries appeared limited.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the Asia-Pacific Group (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and its Anti Money Laundering Office is a member of the Egmont Group. Thailand’s Counterterrorist Financing Act, together with subordinate laws, came into effect in early 2013. In September 2015, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) revised the CFT Act, amending its rules and procedures for notifications of designations in accordance with obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions. Thailand does not have a significant unregulated informal banking and money transfer system regarding terrorism financing activities. In cases where the Bank of Thailand has discovered unauthorized remittances, the Bank has coordinated with the RTP to arrest the perpetrators. AMLO in 2015 did not identify and freeze terrorist assets of any individuals and organizations listed under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, although it did freeze $3,079 in other terrorist assets. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Thai government’s Internal Security Operations Command continued to organize outreach programs to ethnic Malay-Muslims in southern Thailand to counter radicalization and violent extremism. The government also works with Muslim leaders to promote the teaching of moderate Islam. NGOs continue to reach out to communities in the southern provinces to provide services, identify the underlying causes of the area’s violence, and provide outlets for peaceful political expression.
International and Regional Cooperation: Thailand participated in international counterterrorism efforts, including through APEC, ASEAN, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The government signed a ministerial-level ASEAN statement condemning the rise of violence committed by violent extremists in Iraq and Syria, and an East Asia Summit leaders’ statement on ISIL’s violence and brutality.