COMMUNIST INSURGENCY IN THAILAND

Created: 5/9/1968

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COMMUNIST INSURGENCY IN THAILAND

THE PROBLEM

To assess the probable development of Communist insurgency in Thailand over the next two years or so.

CONCLUSIONS

A- The Communist insurgent threat to the stability of the Thaihas not grown appreciably over the past year despite the appearance of insurgent activity in additional areas of the country. At the heart of the insurgents' failure to make significant progress is tlie lackharismatic leaderompelling issue with wliich to stir popular emotions. The insurgent rnovemcnt is furtherby its foreign flavor; its policies are strongly influenced by Peking and its leaders are predominantly Thai-bom Chinese.

Thai Government has generally shown increasingin dealing with the insurgency. But many problemsbureaucratic rivalries and the failure of the governmentarmy to make the most effective use of the resources alreadydisposal.

its many serious handicaps, il is probable that thoin Thailand, with the continued support of Peking andpersist and even increase in Intensity over the next two yearsEven though government suppression activities may becomeit is unlikely that major guerrilla units will be eliminated;will probably gain in skill and continue to find sufficientof adventurous youth and dLsaffectcd peasants to maintainlike their current personnel strength. The Northeast willto be the key area, but the local threat in the North mayserious.

D. The insurgent movement would almost certainly benefitettlement in Vietnam favorable to the Communists; the benefits would be even greater ifos fell to Communist control. But the Thai Government would not be disposed to accommodate with tbe domestic insurgents in either case, and there would not be an automatic and rapid growth in the insurgent movement Tbe effectiveness of the oounterinsurgency program, however, could be diminished by political instability at the center resulting from tbe combined impact of Communist successes in Indochina, uncertainty as to the future role of the US on the Southeast Asian mainland, and divisions over thepolitical adjustments thought necessary to ensure Thailand's survivalew environment.

DISCUSSION

L THE SITUATION

he kws^Mndiog Communis! subversive campaign ininto active insurgency in the iiorthcasteni part of tbe oounOry:guerrilla bands began to offer aimed resistance to governmentpoUbx*ny-oaotivatcd assassinations increased sharply;ewthe first insurgent-initiated attacks on government security forces andoccurred. During the past year or so, sirnilar insurgentsmallersurfaced In other regions of the country; thothe Mid-South, and, particularly, the North.Ihe Thai Government has responded to the Communist challenge withcounterinsurgency program designed to destroy thetheir supporters,the longerensure die loyaltyof the population io the affected areas.

A. The Insurgency

'The bona -kmapnt taesdeait- used In thtt aattaaaas itK**des: "antad tse*deattTrenesa-Iailuted dnU) "lerfooO, aaraneanaUeos.ce.ee. andtnd,gill Be.det.tJ-vOigaBaes held by aimed msuifeert groaps).

As in Vietnam, weather alert* iwnreoc* and cOueUimuige&cy opmtMca In Thailand. Tba Northeast, perhaps neve than any large area of Southeast Asia, haa duunct dry (No-veniUt-Maroh) and wet (May-September> seasons.

Northeast. Northeastern Thailand remains the focus of the insurgency campaign in Thailand;nercent of all insurgentoccurred there.1

Insurgent Incidents in the Northeast increased irregularly from the Inception of active Insurgency ineak ofncidents duringhen dropped sharply to half this level for the remainder of the year. In recent months, tbe iucidtni count has gone up slightly.1 In contrast

Io theear ago, the majority of armed incidents now appear to be at government initiative; those initiated by the insurgents are tnnlnly very small-scale haras* men is, and the insurgents usually suffer more casualties than the government, though Ihe totals on both sides arc small.

It appears that the Communist force has not grownver die past year. "Hardcore" insurgentfull-timethe Northeast is probablyompared to anear or so ago. The backbone of this force continues to be the several hundreds tern Thai and Sino Thaihai-born Chinese) who were trained andin Communist China, North Vietnam, or in Pathet Lao-con trolled areas of Laos in the.

It, of course, that the Communists have not been seeking totheir guerrilla units, preferring to concentrate first on the devefoptnent of local centers of support. We cannot estimate the number of their villagethose who sympathize, pfovide information and supplies, yetas villageit is probable that such support remains smalL The continuing Communist resort to terrorism and other coercive tactics is one indication of Communist difficulty in gaming adherents in the villages.

While tho government has apparently been able to contain the insurgency in the Northeast, most of the guerrilla units are still intact and concentrated in some of their original base areas in the highlands of Nakhon Phanom and Sakon Nakhon Provinces, near tbe Mekong opposite central Laos. Although insurgent groups have often boon forced to move by government incursions, Thai security foroes have generally not boon able to prevent their escape nor have theya presence in these rugged and isolated districts.

North. These wero occasional armed clashes between sot-uiily loices arid dissident tribal elements in the rugged, forested highlands of northern Thailand as early asn early December, however, fairly Urge-scalesecurity probes into Nan and Chiang Rai Provinces, along die Laos border, led tor more clashesew weeks, with relatively heavy casualties for governmenthe insurgents demonstrated considerable skill and discipline during the many engagements andumber of generally ruccessful assaults on police outposts and army patrols. Levels of activity oo new guerrilla front have remained high. There has been some armed activity In distant Tak Province on the Burmese border.

Wc do notood basis for estimating the number of insurgents in the North. Although those actually under Communist discipline probablyno moreew hundred, tribal dissidents on occasion swell the numbers of those actually engaged In local violence. In addition, Pathet Lac* personnel, whose operations near the Thai border are directed primarily against theof Laos, appear at times to support the insurgency in Thailand from their side of the border.

Most of die Insurgents in the North are probably hill tribesmen, principally Meo. re believed to have received extensive paramilitary

(raining in North Vietnam or in Pathet Lao-conirollcti areas of Lao*5ho insurgency in tbe North appears to be organised and led by Thai and Sino-Thai affiliated with tbe Communist apparatus in the Northeast, many of them trained tn China, North Vietnam, or Laos. They hase been able to exploit such longstanding tribal grievances as police interference with slash-aad-bum agriculture and illegal opium cultivation- Tribal animosities have been aggravated recently by the growing competition between tribesmen andThat lowktndora for agricultural lands and timber rights in what has become, with government support, an area of new settlement and development

Wfirt-CanlroL Communists have been engaged in organizational activity among poor peasants in tbe provinces along tbe Burmese border west of Bangkok for many years, but acts of violence were rare until7errorist bandolice patrol Sporadic ambushes have continued in this sector. Most of the action has occurred in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province whereis narrowest. Total insurgent strength in the entire region may beainly local Thai with Communist connections. The group also includes some Karen tribesmen, but insurgent tactics do not appear to involve exploitation of any specifically odroic grievances.

Mid-South. In peninsular Tliallund, small insurgent bands composed of locally-reeruited Thai and Sino-Tbai, and totalingersons, began sporadic assassinations and kidnappings inhe response of Thai security forces has led to an average of dure or four armed clashes per month, usually at government initiative- There liave alsoew ambushes and armed propaganda meetings in recent months. The insurgents operate mainly from rugged mountainous areas and focus their appeal on local economic Few villages appear to be under their influence.

Malay South. The Communist Party of Malayahich isethnic Chinese, haskilled, tightly-disciplined, and well-equipped guerrilla foroe in Thailand's southernmost provinoos since it was driven fiom Malaya in theIhe posture of this force has beendefensive: it has engaged in flrefightx only when caught by Thai orThat-Malaysian patrols. There were aboutuch encountershe same number ashe strength of the CPM force isOGO, it is composed to an increasing degree of Thai-bora Chinese. In addition, as many asocal Chinese youths resident In the villages have received some jungle training from the CPM. Recruiting of Malays, who constitute theethnic group in theseas been slow despite considerable anti-government feeling rooted in economic grievances and pan-Malay sentiment.

B. Counrerinsurgency

The Thai counter insurgency performance has boon uneven,government has generally shown growing competence io its approach to Security forces have demonstrated increasing ability in suppression

'Thisften termed die Communist Tmiorltt Orgaabauon (CIO).

operations, although Important deficiencies remain. Tlie nonmilitarypositive efforts to improve local government and economicalso received considerable attention but with more mixed results. There are several reasons for this: the relatively brief period since tlie onset of the insurgency, the conservative fiscal views of those segments of the government in charge of resource allocation, bureaucratic rivalries within the Thai Coverument,eneral incomprehension of the needs of certain ethnic minorities.

While the military leaders who rule Thailand recognize the importance of nonmilitary aspects of countermsurgenty, they trod toirmerof the techniques of armed suppression. This tendency is reinforced by their view of the insurgency as arising not so much from domestic grievances as from foreign inspiration and support. In addition. like most of the centralwho inhabit the rich and deusuly-populatcd alluvial lowlands aroundleaders tend to look down upon their "country cousins" of the remote Northeast and to view the minority tribesmen of the North and the Malays of the South bi alien and inferior.

An even more persistent problem has been the Inevitable involvement of the countcrmsurgency program in tho bureaucratic struggles of Bangkok. The civilian ministries are Jealous of their respective prerogatives and coordination among them is poor. Tlie military are reluctant to support programs that might limit the prcrogativoi of the army and they press for actions which serve to broaden its responsibilities. Inesult of army pressure, the role of the Counter Subversion Operations Commandet upas drasticallye army was put in operational cliarge of all counter ins urgency efforts, civilian as well as military, In the Northeast, North, and West-Central areas. For these areas, CSOC was relegated lo the statusolicy planning board, and It retained operational control of actual programs only in the Mid* and Malay South. It is still too soon to assess all the effects of this changeover. However, suppression operations do appear to have been executed more energetically since October, and army leaders have so far shown themselves sensitive to tbe importance of nonmihlary aspects of counter-insurgency and have exercised restraint In applying the army's overall direction to civilian programs. In view of this restraint and the fact that Ihe armyenjoys better relations with tlie populace than doe* the police, Iho army's new role may well Increase popular cooperation with the counterirumrgeocy effort.

Forces. Tbe army hasroops. Including three infantry battalions, to armed suppression in the Northeast. These forces have hadIn defeating Communist-led guerrilla units, in dislodging them from thoir

c-ruSMl CSOC ntechanlsmelief that the civil admiolstinUon should be the primary instrument of Uw ccunterinsurget.cy elToit. Military and police elements would provide manpower and materiel, but their operations would he subordinated lo othei counter-insurceftcy activities- In practice, CSOC never really functioned ns an integrated command: military (and police) commanders resented taking orders from piovlnelal governors and theirSOC operations wai often lei* than wholehearted.

strongholds by means of large-scale sweeps, and army units haveapability to bring security by their presence to populated areas. Even in the Northeast, however, the ability of the armed forces to collect intelligence and to respond quickly to such intelligence as is available still leaves much to be desired. Tlie tendency toward slow response is onlyobility problem; there is also some lack of aggressiveness and willingness to make the most of available resources. These deficiencies help to explain the army's failure so far to eliminate the insurgent bands. Moreover, the army chiefs still appear to feel the need to keep substantial numbers of troops in Bangkok, in part for political reasons.

ecent army suppression activities in the West-Central and Mid-South regions have been at ineffective in eliminating the guerrilla threat as the police operations formerly conducted in these regions. In the North, the recent army performance has been particularly poor. Comparatively large forces have had little impact on insurgent capabilities and have sustained relatively heavyThe army response has included calling in air strikes on Meo villages and forcibly relocating large numbers of tribesmen against the advice of local officials; these actions probably antagonized many tribesmen. Army leaders now appear to be settling down for the longer pull and are becoming more sensitive to the requirements of the situation.

IS. The Provincial Police,ull partner in the Thai counter insurgency effort, are now clearly subordinate to the military. Though they participate In army-directed patrol and sweep operations, their lack of proper training and equipment limit their effectivenessounter ins urgency force.an Border Patrol Policen elite paramilitary force which has long been heavily engaged in the North and Ihe Malay South, is better able to combat tho insurgent threat During the recent upsurge of activity in tlte North,BPP platoons were badly mauled in surprise attacks.

Other paramilitary forces have been organized in recent years to help combat the insurgent threat; like the regular police, they are under the Ministry of Interior. The Volunteer Defense Corps (VDC) predates the insurgency;ctive members in tho Northeast assist in patrolling threatened districts. Though neither well-trained nor well-equipped, the VDC presence Is sometimes sufficient to discourage overt guerrilla activity. The Village Security Officer (VSO) and Peoples Assistance Team (PAT) programs were initiated inareas of the NortheastSO members act, in effect, as bodyguards of village leaders.r so PATs are better armed andThey combine antisubversion and civic action functions al the village level and their villages are not often harassed. It is planned to combine the VSO and PAT programsillage Security Force (VSF) under theof village leaders; over the next twoen are to be deployed into three threatened northeastern provinces.

NonmiUtiru Programs. Despite recent changes in the CSOC role, counter-insurgency programs hi the economic and political fields continue essentially

unchanged. One of ihe more ambitious hn* been Ihe Accelerated Hural(ARD) program, an attempt to bring together the assets of several government departmentsoordinating committee in Bangkok (and under tlie governor at the province level) Io promote economic development inrural areas. Other economic efforts include the Mobile Development Unitseams of specialists working on tmafl-scale projectsunula te self-help efforts in selected villages, and the village-levelof Ihe Coramevelopment Department. The chief polatlctl effort has been the Department of Local Administrations Developing Democracywhich has sponsoredlected Tambon (township) Councils as examples of democracy at the grass roots level, hopefully giving dieense ol participation in government these councils have been provided some funds for use on projects for which thereocal demand. MobileTeams (MIT) also tour villages throughout the country dispensing medical and agricultural advice, at tlie same time giving poh'tical lectures, snowing films, and providing educational entertainment. Efforts to reach people in remote areas through dialect radio broadcasts have also been stepped up.

the most part, these programs are currently focused on thedistricts of the Northeast Tbe ARD program has resultedtho construction of many feeder roads In that area, which will doubtlesseconomic and security benefits; the program has accompltdiedin iho way of small-scale, village level projects whose usefulnessapparent to the inhabitants, although it has recently begun tomore on such efforts. The MDUs, after an encouraging start,proved as mobile as expected and hence have been able lo Influencelimited number of villages. Obviously, the economic deficiencies which the

ave t Item or'y paras":'vt'l'ii

ever, by involvement of increased numbers of security and civilian personnel to the Northeast and other remote areas, and by its efforts to improve the quality of these personnel the government has probably gained respect and authority in these areas.

II. PROSPECTS

llie Communist Insurgent threat In 'llialland has not grown appreciably over the past year or so. In the main arena, the Northeast, insurgents appear to have been concentrating on building their organization in the villages. They have not. however, taken over any well-populated area, attracted many recruits, or sparked substantial support amongural populace. While the guerrilla units remain essentially intact and capable of continued small-scale antigovern-mcut action, they have been increasingly on the defensive aod reluctant to risk government counteraction.

In Iho North, the insurgents have become Intseasingly active, butappeais to be confined to tribal peoples who comprisemall fraction ol the region's population nnd dwell in the most remote areas, 'llie

expansion of tlie active insurgency into the West-Central and Mid-South regions over the past year or so has alarmed the Thai Government, but insurgent units in these regions pose no present threat to government control of populated areas. There is no evidence Hia! the CPM insurgents of tbe Malay South are preparing to Join the Communist assault on Thailand.

At the heart of the insurgent's failure to make significant progress is their inability to win widespread sympathy. They lack the charismatic leadenhlp and the inflammatory racial or nationalistic issues which have inspired successful guerrilla movements elsewhere in Asia; existing grievances do not seem sufficient to stir tho villagers to join up. Furthermore, the direction of tho insurgency is in the hands of the Thai Communist Parlyovement withew hundredhousand members, little indigenous support, and an nsscntially foreign complexion; it Is dominated by Sino-Thal and has long been responsive to direction from Peking.

Through its strong influence, If not control, over the CPT, some of whose leaders arc in Pelting, Communist China probably has the paramount voice in pohcy matters corKermng the Thai insurgency. Hanoi, because of Its guerrilla training program and other support, also has an influential role. It is likefy, therefore, that the interests of the CPT are often subordinated to those of Peking and Hanoi, who exploit the insurgency In their own interests instead of permitting its Thai lenders to operate in accordance with tbe local situation. Theof the active Insurgency inor example, was almosty-product of Communist strategy in Vietnam. In local terms, the move was probably premature, exposing the still weak guerrilla orgariixation to government counteraction and hampering longer term Communist growth in the villages.

espite its many serious handicaps. It is probable that the insurgency in Thailand will expand somewhat in geographic scope and, in some regions, even Increase in Intensity overnext two yean or so. Even though government suppression activities may become more effective, it is unlikely that major guerrilla units will be eliminated, and the guerrillas will probably continue to findnumbers of adventurous youth and disaffected peasants to maintainlike their current personnel strength. Moreover, as the years pass, the surviving guerrillas will become increasingly skillful in evading government forces. They will continue to maintain pressure on tho government through small-scale violent tactics, but they will probably stress more covert propaganda andwork in hopes oftrong base for the longer term.

be persistence of the insurgency will depend heavily oo Peking and Hanoi, who will continue to provide its overall direction and to train and dispatch into Thailand the limited numbers of Thai nationals tbey are able to recruit and exfihrate to territories under their control- Peking and Hanoi wUl not be greatly deterred by setbacks in Thailand. They haveodification oftactics, emphasizing terrorism and avoiding military confrontation, but there is little chance that Mao's doctrines of armed struggle in rural areas will be abandoned in the near future.

he primary objective of the insurgency will continue to be the Northeast, because of its proximity to Communist bases in Laos and traditional isolalion from the national government in Bangkok. The North, however, is likely toontinuing intensification of the insurgent effort. The terrain is ideal for guerrillas; many tribesmen are strongly antagonistic toward tho government; the counterinsurgency program there is in its infancy; and the region is easilyto Palhet Lao bases. Insurgency in the West-Central and Mid-South provinces will probably continue as predominantly terrorist movements designed to divert th* government from more important sectors of Communist activity in the Nortlieast and North- The Communists of the Malay South coulderious problem should they decide, at some point, to change their general line and direct their efforts against the Thai Government

Thailand arid lha Vietnamese War. Whatever Ihe outcome of tlie war in Vietnam, Thai leaders will remain strongly committed to the defeat of theinsurgency on their soil. The Thai would assume, however,ettlement In Vietnam favorable to the Communists would lead to increasedefforts lu Thailand and would expect an even more intense threat should Laos fall under Communist control or appear close to doing so.

Under these drcumstances. Thai pressures on the US for firmer commitment and increased assistance would be heavy.S response tliat did not fully satisfy Thai demands would not reduce the determination of the present leadership to deal with the iutemal threat. Thai receptiveness to US advice would probably decline and their preoccupation with avoiding completeupon the US would increase. Moreover, if the nature of thothe circumstances attending it, and the US response to Thai pressures made it appear that the US was withdrawing from significant efforts to curb the extension of Communist power on the Southeast Asian mainland, their felt need to devise new political arrangements to protect Thailand both internally andcould lead to divisions within the leadership and to increased opposition to it. Tlie outcome of the political instability likely under these circumstances would depend heavily on the interplay ol many variables we cannot now predict with any confidence. It is unlikely that any significant individuals or groups within or outside tlie present Icadcrsldp would see their political fortunes best advanced by an accommodation with tin- Thai Communists, whatever newmight be advocated with respect to foreign Communist regimes. Almost certainly, however, the effectiveness of the government's countertnsurgency effort would declineeriod of political instability in which the militarywas divided or felt itself significantly threatened.

The Communist side, oi course, would bo greatly encouragedanoi triumph in Vietnam. Aod Peking and Hanoi might decide the lime was ripe for increased support to the Thai insurgency. But such support would not lead automaticallyapid growth in ihe insurgent threat; much would still depend on attitudes and policies in Bangkok.

The complete occupation of Laos by the Communists in the wakeietnam settlement favorable to Hanoi would certainly assist the insurgent cause. The psychological impact of the fall of Laos would be even greater than thatommunist takeover in Vietnam, given Thailand's traditional view of Laos as its first line of defense. The resultant demoralization would doubtless affect provincial officials involved in counterinsurgency programs as well as thein Bangkok. In addition, logistic support and infiltration from across the border would undoubtedly grow and this in turn would substantially increase the difficulties of coping with guerrillas throughout the North and Northeast

Cessation of hostilities in Vietnam on terms clearly favorable to the US and the GVN would encourage the Tliai in their campaign of suppression, but would not, by itself lead to any slackening of Chinese determination to foster the Thai insurgency. Hanoi's reaction is less predictable, but it would probably not wish to abandon the field to Peking. The Communists might decide to revise strategy, turning from violence to the longer term task oforerevolutionary base in Thailand.

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