Most security experts agree that the groups are largely focused on driving out authorities from Bangkok, which annexed the area in 1902. Thai officials say Al Qaeda has inspired, but not assisted, militants in the south.
Marc Askew, a senior fellow in the anthropology program at the University of Melbourne who is based in Southern Thailand, says that meanwhile, though the exact numbers are difficult to nail down, statistics seem to show that the number of monthly violent events has actually declined as of late.
“But the difference,” he says, “is that casualties seem to be greater per event.” The conflict may not have brought a lot of international attention overall, but attacks are getting more deadly, signaling that the insurgents are getting better at targeting "gaps in the security net," such as teachers who cannot be protected by troops 24/7. Despite the Thai military in the area the insurgents are not losing ground.
In an effort to attract votes by addressing the violence, Yingluck Shinawatra visited the deep south ahead of her July 3 election as prime minister. Donning a red hijab, Ms. Shinawatra, who is Buddhist, proposed granting the region more autonomy.
She suggested that the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Naratiwat be grouped into one “special administrative zone," with one elected governor. The proposal was supported by academics and nonprofit groups in the deep south that favor decentralization and more economic independence from Bangkok.
But her party failed to take any seats in the region, and last week, when pressed before parliament to provide details on the plan, Yingluck's deputy prime minister appeared to distance himself and the administration from the proposal. This has led to speculation that the plan could ultimately be abandoned.