Dec 10th 2009
Thailand's restive south and Malaysia
Najib and Abhisit have a look-see
PEOPLE in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces have heard plenty of promises from Bangkok since January 2004, when Muslim insurgents began a campaign of separatist violence. Government ministers, royalty and military brass have descended in droves to dispense advice, arms and money. But the conflict, which has so far claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 Thais, shows no signs of ending.
Last year saw a surge in troops and a dip in violence. But the shootings and bombings have increased again, with gruesome tactics such as the beheading of victims. The militants behind the killings do not declare themselves. They have neither taken their violent campaign to the rest of Thailand nor combined forces with foreign, anti-western terrorists. Caught up in their own political drama, few Thais pay close attention to the southern conflict.
On December 9th Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister, accompanied his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, on a one-day trip to the area, a former sultanate that is populated mostly by ethnic-Malay Muslims. Mr Najib is the first Malaysian leader to visit since the insurgency began. Thai diplomats have worked hard to prevent the conflict from becoming an international issue, though America has begun to look more closely and has earmarked aid money for peace-building projects.