Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Thailand

Overview: Thailand experienced no attacks attributed to transnational terrorist groups in 2018 and violence was heavily restricted to attacks by ethno-nationalist insurgents in the country’s restive southern region. The number of terrorist incidents in the Deep South (the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, parts of Songkhla, and Yala) in 2018 was the lowest since the conflict reignited in 2004. Although Thai security officials remain concerned about the potential for ISIS to infiltrate domestic insurgent groups, Thai security officials have maintained that there is no evidence to date of any operational linkages between these domestic groups and international terrorism networks. Given the high volume of travelers through Bangkok’s main airport, an available market of illegal goods, and relatively weak banking oversight, Thailand’s principal vulnerability to international terrorism continues to be as a transit and facilitation hub. Thailand remained a productive counterterrorism partner, though the Thai government continues to focus on domestic political challenges as its primary security priority.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: The number of insurgent attacks and related fatalities decreased from 2017 and attacks were mostly confined to Thailand’s southernmost provinces. Methods primarily included shootings, arson, IEDs, and VBIEDS, although a series of landmine attacks represented a divergence from these typical tactics.

  • In January, a motorcycle bomb exploded at a market in Yala province’s Mueang district killing three people and injuring 18 others.
  • In February, three districts of Pattani province were hit by a series of bomb attacks, injuring six people but causing no fatalities. According to media reports, six bombs exploded and six others were defused by Thai authorities.
  • In May, insurgents used small IEDs to launch a series of coordinated attacks across all four provinces of the Deep South, wounding at least three people but causing no fatalities. Most of the two-dozen IEDs targeted ATMs, with others targeting electric poles or government-related institutions.
  • In early July, a series of five landmine explosions took place in Yala province over the course of a week, all on Buddhist-owned rubber plantations. Human Rights Watch claimed separatist insurgents were responsible for the attacks, but there was no claim of responsibility. Although the long-running insurgency has seen extensive use of command-detonated IEDS, use of victim-activated IEDs is much less common.
  • In December, two bombs exploded and an additional three were detonated by Explosive Ordinance Disposal officials on Samila Beach in the north of Thailand’s Songkhla province, located just outside the region typically regarded as the “Deep South.” The bombing caused no injuries or fatalities but damaged a famous golden mermaid statue that is a popular tourist attraction for both Thai and foreign vacationers.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Thailand is drafting a new Counterterrorism Act, which aims to integrate existing terrorism-related laws into one document. The National Legislative Assembly had not yet passed the bill at the end of 2018. Thailand continues to apply the 2017-21 National Counterterrorism Strategy to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks, but details of the strategy are not public.

Thailand’s law enforcement authorities demonstrated some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Multiple entities – including the Royal Thai Police, the 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.

The Thai government engaged in programs with establishments such as hotels, schools, and shopping centers to raise awareness on soft target protection and conducted activities to enhance the capacity of security officials to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. In September, a Thai court sentenced nine men from the Deep South to four to six years in jail for conspiring to launch car-bomb attacks in the Bangkok region in 2016. The defendants’ attorney asserted that the detainees were forced to confess under torture, but the judge rejected this claim.

Thailand’s borders are relatively porous, and information sharing within Thailand and with neighboring countries is limited. The market in fraudulent documents remained active despite government efforts to crack down on criminal counterfeit networks. Bangkok’s main airport experienced two significant security breaches in 2018. Although neither incident was terrorism-related, these incidents revealed security deficiencies at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Beginning in 2016, Thailand began to collect and analyze API/PNR data on commercial flights at all international airports. As of late 2018, Thailand’s immigration system is reported to be real-time connected with INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document Database.

Throughout 2018, Thai law enforcement units benefitted from U.S.-provided capacity building assistance. Bilaterally, Thai law enforcement received U.S. training on forensic evidence collection and analysis, complex investigation techniques, police tactics, explosives, and cryptocurrencies. Thailand hosted and participated in courses offered at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, which included relevant training on financial investigations, cyber investigations, tactical safety, personnel and physical security, radiological material detection, post-blast investigations, and border interdictions. Thailand also participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program.

The Thai government generally does not regard counterterrorism or CVE efforts as high priorities in comparison with competing domestic concerns.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the APG, a FATF-style regional body, which commits to the effective implementation and enforcement of FATF internationally accepted AML/CFT standards. Thailand’s FIU, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), 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 (Bank of Thailand) has discovered unauthorized remittances, it has coordinated with police to arrest the offenders.

Through AMLO, Thailand has promptly issued designation orders each time the UN changed the list of designated persons or entities pursuant to UNSCRs 1373, 1267, and 1988, passed the updates to all relevant agencies through the electronic gateway through secure email, and published an updated consolidation of all designations on the AMLO website. If any transaction was found by the designated person/entity under the UNSCRs, AMLO would freeze those assets. Thailand displays a generally high level of political commitment to combating terrorist financing and demonstrates generally good compliance. In 2018, 12 terrorism financing cases were under investigation, and one case was prosecuted.

In November, AMLO, in partnership with FIUs from Indonesia, Australia, and five other countries, hosted the fourth Regional Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit in Bangkok. This year’s summit focused on expanding regional synergies and solutions including a regional risk assessment on non-profit organization red flag indicators; the identification and prioritization of ISIS-affiliated organizations and emerging terrorist organizations in the region; the release of a secure information-sharing platform prototype; and a multilateral intelligence analyst exchange.

Thailand continues to implement UNSCR 1373 obligations in the banking and insurance sectors. Some assets have been frozen in compliance with UNSCR 1373, but no assets have been frozen pursuant to the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism: The national counterterrorism strategy published in 2017 includes a CVE component. Thailand is currently drafting a CVE national action plan.

International and Regional Cooperation: Thailand is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the East Asia Summit. Thailand also submitted its Counter Terrorism Action Plan to APEC’s Counter Terrorism Working Group in 2018.