Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand

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9780801474996: Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand

Since January 2004, a violent separatist insurgency has raged in southern Thailand, resulting in more than three thousand deaths. Though largely unnoticed outside Southeast Asia, the rebellion in Pattani and neighboring provinces and the Thai government's harsh crackdown have resulted in a full-scale crisis. Tearing Apart the Land by Duncan McCargo, one of the world's leading scholars of contemporary Thai politics, is the first fieldwork-based book about this conflict. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of the region, hundreds of interviews conducted during a year's research in the troubled area, and unpublished Thai-language sources that range from anonymous leaflets to confessions extracted by Thai security forces, McCargo locates the roots of the conflict in the context of the troubled power relations between Bangkok and the Muslim-majority "deep South."

McCargo describes how Bangkok tried to establish legitimacy by co-opting local religious and political elites. This successful strategy was upset when Thaksin Shinawatra became prime minister in 2001 and set out to reorganize power in the region. Before Thaksin was overthrown in a 2006 military coup, his repressive policies had exposed the precariousness of the Bangkok government's influence. A rejuvenated militant movement had emerged, invoking Islamic rhetoric to challenge the authority of local leaders obedient to Bangkok.

For readers interested in contemporary Southeast Asia, insurgency and counterinsurgency, Islam, politics, and questions of political violence, Tearing Apart the Land is a powerful account of the changing nature of Islam on the Malay peninsula, the legitimacy of the central Thai government and the failures of its security policy, the composition of the militant movement, and the conflict's disastrous impact on daily life in the deep South. Carefully distinguishing the uprising in southern Thailand from other Muslim rebellions, McCargo suggests that the conflict can be ended only if a more participatory mode of governance is adopted in the region.

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From the Back Cover:

"If you read just one book on Thailand's turbulent south, it must be Duncan McCargo's Tearing Apart the Land. Built on months of potentially dangerous fieldwork, McCargo's book will set the benchmark against which all future studies of the south will be measured. McCargo's intelligent and informed analysis unravels a remarkably complex social, political, religious and cultural environment to provide an account that does not diminish this complexity but which provides a series of prisms - Islam, politics, security and militants - that allow us to better understand it. Tearing Apart the Land is an excellent book that tells us much about the separatist conflict in Southern Thailand and also provides invaluable insights into national politics in Thailand. This is essential reading."--Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"In Tearing Apart the Land, Duncan McCargo articulates a convincing explanation of the crisis in Thailand's Malay Muslim region with conceptual and analytical clarity. He also boldly offers a direction to the solution and the reasons why it is very difficult for the Thai state to embrace this solution. The book may set a new basis for the discussion on this crisis and its solution for some time to come."--Thongchai Winichakul, University of Wisconsin-Madison

About the Author:

Duncan MCCARGO is Professor of Southeast Asian Politics at the University of Leeds.

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