Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Thailand

Overview: Thailand’s principle vulnerability to international terrorism is its status as a transit and facilitation country. Thailand is an attractive facilitation hub for illicit activity given the high volume of travelers through Bangkok’s main airport, coupled with an available market of illegal goods and relatively weak banking oversight. Domestic terrorist incidents were largely confined to Thailand’s four southernmost provinces, the scene of a longstanding separatist conflict between ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgent groups and the central Thai government. Although Thai security officials have expressed moderate concern about the threat to Thailand from ISIS, security authorities continued to assert there was no confirmed evidence of Thai citizens joining the group or of operational linkages between the southern insurgent groups and international terrorist networks. Thailand remained a productive counterterrorism partner, even as the Thai government continued to focus on domestic political challenges as its primary security priority.

2017 Terrorist Incidents: Ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgents carried out hundreds of attacks in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and parts of Songkhla, known as Thailand’s Deep South. Methods included shootings, arson, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs). Since the conflict surged in 2004, insurgents have largely confined their attacks to the four southernmost provinces. Terrorism-related attacks included:

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Thailand’s law enforcement authorities demonstrated some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Multiple entities – including the Royal Thai Police (RTP), Department of Special Investigation, and components of the Thai military – have law enforcement responsibilities on counterterrorism cases. Interagency cooperation and coordination was sporadic, information sharing was limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with counterterrorism responsibilities was unclear. Annual routine reassignments of senior government and military officials hampered continuity in leadership.

Throughout the year, officers from Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Ministry of Justice, the RTP, and the National Intelligence Agency participated in regional workshops focused on counterterrorism threats including Hizballah and ISIS. The regional workshops also covered investigative techniques, countering the financing of terrorism, and legal reforms.

Thailand hosted and participated in the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, which conducted courses on post-blast investigations, border interdictions, law enforcement techniques to counter terrorism, and financial investigative techniques.

Thailand’s borders are relatively porous. The market in fraudulent documents remained active despite government efforts to crack down on criminal counterfeit networks. Information sharing within Thailand and with neighboring countries appeared limited. Beginning in 2016, Thailand began to collect and analyze Advanced Passenger Information And Passenger Name Record data on commercial flights at all international airports. Although the Royal Thai Police in May signed an agreement with the INTERPOL National Central Bureau to gain access rights to INTERPOL’s 16 databases, including the Stolen and Lost Travel Document database, Thai immigration systems at border crossings still lacked the capability for real-time connectivity with these INTERPOL databases.

Thailand participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program and received training in border security and investigations.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Thailand’s financial intelligence unit, Anti-Money Laundering Office Thailand, is 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 has discovered unauthorized remittances, the central bank has coordinated with the police to arrest the offenders. An estimated two-thirds of Thailand’s non-government organizations operate as unregistered entities and therefore represent a high risk for terrorist financing. Thailand continues to implement UN Security Council 1373 obligations, especially in the banking and insurance sectors. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Thailand lacked a national CVE action plan, although the draft national counterterrorism strategy includes elements of CVE. The government’s Internal Security Operations Command continued to organize outreach programs to ethnic Malay-Muslims in southern Thailand to counter radicalization to violence. The government also worked with Muslim leaders to promote the teaching of moderate Islam and to improve interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Buddhists. Non-governmental organizations continued 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. Civil society and academic leaders received training through State Department-funded programs.

In July, the State Department, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Thai National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, co-sponsored a conference in Bangkok on best practices to counter radicalization to violence.

International and Regional Cooperation: Thailand participated in international counterterrorism efforts, including through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the ASEAN Regional Forum.