This post is the latest in a series from our Bangkok correspondent, H. Numan.
From The Bangkok Post:
Aid from bin Laden?
A government spokesman said on Friday that southern militants are receiving aid and money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group, but Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said the official was mistaken.
For the first time, government spokesman Chaiya Yimvilai told a media briefing on Friday that southern gangs were receiving military help and money from al-Qaeda, as well as drug gangs.
“The situation has intensified recently because they received money from overseas,” said [? — sic]
The money is “from the international terror organisation Al Qaeda. There are also local drug traffickers involved in both financial support and buying arms for militants.” He also cited local corruption, particularly by southern politicians.
Prime Minister Surayud said there was no evidence of such aid from the international terrorist group.
“Al-Qaeda isn’t an organisation which can offer a lot of assistance,” a Thai News Agency reported quoted him as saying.
Gen Surayud said that although the government did not have definitive information, he did not believe the group was providing financial support to fund anti-government operations in the southern provinces, reported TNA.
But the premier left open the possibility that international groups were involved in the ongoing unrest. It is possible, he said, as militant networks could be seen to be linked, especially in countries where conflicts erupt.
The government and knowledgeable sources have long agreed that international terrorists have been kept out of the South — with the occasional exception of claims that aid from Malaysian sympathisers has been funneled to some of the violent groups in the South.
Both the government and the known militant gangs have framed the violent southern conflict as a battle between the central government and minority groups of ethnic Malays seeking independence and separation.
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There are known Islamist groups in the South, however, and operatives of the Indonesia-based al-Qaeda subsidiary Jemaah Islamiyah have been captured in the three southern border provinces where the bloody Thai rebellion is under way.
The core guerrillas in the violence, which has killed more than 2,800 people in four years, have taken instruction from the Internet and elsewhere on paramilitary and terrorist tactics, especially from the Iraq conflict.
One of the motivations for the revolt has been the rise of hard-core Salafist groups, some of whom trained in Afghanistan with the bin Laden gang before the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Mr Chaiya provided no proof of support directly from al-Qaeda to the Thai rebels. He said the militants have stepped up their attacks in a show of force, and to exploit security gaps resulting from a recent troop rotation.
“Violence will continue because there are many factors, including corrupt local officials in uniform, with both local and national politicians involved,” he said.
This was Bangkok reporting,