A senior military official in Thailand has for the first time charged that Indonesian jihadists are actively participating in the Thai insurgency. Straying from his government’s line, retired General Kitti Rattanachaya charged that Muslim fighters from Aceh province in Indonesia were infiltrating the conflict zone and carrying out attacks against Thai authorities, according to the AP:
A security adviser to the prime minister said Thursday that Indonesian fighters are involved in Thailand’s Muslim insurgency, contradicting government insistence the bloody separatist movement is a homegrown affair unconnected to Southeast Asia’s al-Qaida-linked terror network.
“I have warned the authorities concerned several times about Indonesian fighters sneaking into the region but they have ignored it,” Gen. Kitti Rattanachaya told The Associated Press, saying the militants infiltrated from the Indonesian province of Aceh.
His assertion comes amid rumors of Indonesian Muslims joining the fight in Thailand’s southernmost provinces. No substantial evidence has emerged to back the claim, and Rattanachaya gave few details of the infiltration. Most analysts regard the insurgency as domestic but with a strong potential to attract foreign Muslim militants including members of the Jemaah Islamiyah network, blamed for deadly attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings and a 2003 blast at Jakarta’s J.W. Marriott hotel.
The general’s statement is not the only indication that Indonesian jihadists may be joining the Thai-based insurgency:
In a recent AP interview, a veteran Thai rebel leader warned that militants from Indonesia and Arab nations might join the Thai fight for a separate Muslim homeland if the government continued a crackdown that is provoking a new generation of fighters.
In another interview earlier this week, a Thai Muslim who fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and who has close contacts with the Thai insurgents said he believed fighters from Aceh with superior training have been operating in southern Thailand for some time. Thai insurgents, mostly recruited from religious school and given just rudimentary training, were not good enough to carry out some of the attacks witnessed in the south, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concerns for his safety.
There have been centuries of contact between the Muslims of Aceh and southern Thailand, with only the Straits of Malacca to separate them. Indonesian government troops are now withdrawing from the province following a peace accord to end a separatist rebellion that erupted in 1976.