The statement on Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yabamrung that there is no terrorism in Thailand is nothing short of bizarre. Mr Chalerm was responding to a report released last week by the Australian Institute for Economics and Peace that ranked Thailand eighth in a global list of 158 countries where terrorism has had the most impact over the past decade. The index takes into account the number of terrorist incidents, fatalities, injuries and damage, and says an astounding 5% of global terrorist incidents from 2002 to 2009 occurred in Thailand. Pakistan, India and Afghanistan accounted for 12%, 11% and 10% respectively.
Whether Thailand deserves to be ranked so highly on the list is debatable, as is the question of whether terrorism played a role in the political disturbances on the streets of Bangkok in recent years, but it is hard to see how anyone can deny that many of the violent incidents in the South can only be classified as terrorism.
Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun was assigned by the UN to head a global committee to define terrorism. The definition the commission came up with, as stated in a 2004 UN report, is that terrorism is "any action ... that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act". James Poland, author of Understanding terrorism: Groups, Strategies and Responses, put it slightly differently: "Terrorism is the premeditated, deliberate, systematic murder, mayhem and threatening of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience."
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