When scores of insurgents raided an Army battalion in Thailand's southernmost province of Narathiwat on January 2004, the government responded in full force by mobilising thousands of troops to the predominantly Malay-speaking region.
Unable to make any real headway in penetrating the inner circle of the new generation of insurgents, security forces continue to find themselves fighting an uphill battle against faceless enemies.
Almost on a daily basis, security officials and their informants are being shot and killed at close range by suspected insurgents. Those on patrol are not much safer. Many have been victims of roadside bombings that are usually followed by brief gunfights.
Resources have been channelled towards the community in a desperate effort to win the hearts and minds of the Malays. But relations between the community and the state apparatus continue to deteriorate as more and ordinary villagers no longer trust the state agencies to provide much-needed protection. Rumours of extra-judicial killings and abductions at the hands of the authorities are ripe among the Malay community, making reconciliation efforts that much more difficult.
Why did successive Thai governments fail to detect that a new generation of insurgents was in the making over the past decade? To what extent have the policies of successive governments contributed to the re-emergence of the spirit of separatism in the deep South? Will recommendations from the National Reconciliation Commission fall on deaf ears? To understand, read more from a series of articles from The Nation.