Conflict & Justice

Video: Islamic insurgents ambush troops in Thailand


A Thai soldier stands next to the body of a Muslim rubber merchant shot dead by suspected separatist militants in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat on May 19, 2012.



Most soldiers found dead along the roadside in Thailand's deep south, plagued by a separatist Islamic insurgency, are killed by men who slip away unseen.

But closed-circuit footage of a bloody weekend ambush offers some of the clearest images yet of separatist tactics.

The video, posted below, is disturbing. It shows a relatively well-coordinated team of more than a dozen insurgents in pick-up trucks firing on soldiers riding motorbikes. After the troops crash, the assailants appear to rifle through their clothes and steal their guns. Others jump out of a pick-up to lay down cover fire. (According to the Bangkok Post, police say they've apprehended the shooters.)

The clip adds video evidence to two well-established facts: the insurgents have grown tactically savvy and Thai soldiers, many of them conscripts, are often sitting ducks. Despite roughly $5 billion spent on the conflict, many Thai troops must resort to riding around on cheap scooters to get from point A to B. Soldiers are the most desired targets of the insurgents because they're symbols of Thai power and they tote M-16s that can be looted. They're also relatively vulnerable: here's a photo we ran in 2009 of soldiers' home-made bomb-proofed truck, which has steel plates welded to the truck bed.

For a more on the conflict -- including more video and an interview with a separatist leader -- please check out our series "Buddhists in Arms," which was reported from insurgency's so-called red zones. I focused much of that series on Buddhist militias and Buddhist wrath towards the insurgents. That anger is on full display in the YouTube video's Thai-language comments section, which doubles as a primer on hardcore Thai swearing. (The comment "f***ing animal savages" pretty much captures the tenor of the posted comments.)