Political turmoil and a decades-old conflict between the security forces and non-state armed groups in the south of Thailand have increased since 2004. The violence has claimed more than 3,000 lives in areas where the ethnic Malay population are predominantly Muslim (in contrast with the rest of Thailand, which is essentially Buddhist). Negotiations between government officials and representatives of NSAGs, who have been seeking independence for the provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and five districts of Songkhla province: Chana, Na Thawi, Saba Yoi, Thepa, and Sadao, appear to have stalled.
The imposition of martial law since January 2004, as well as an emergency decree enacted in July 2005, have granted more powers to Thai security forces in the region. According to human groups, this law enables the central government to ban any types of polical gatherings, to censor the media, and to detain people without charge.
Clashes continued in 2009. In April, unidentified individuals opened fire at a train in Narathiwat, killing one crew member. NSAG members were also blamed for nine deaths on 27 April, the day before the 5th anniversary of the Krue Sae mosque incident in which NSAG members launched attacks on police checkpoints, culminating in a siege of Krue Se mosque in Pattani. Security forces killed 32 people who were holed up in the mosque, sparking widespread condemnation.
In 2009, political tensions rose after a late-March protest by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin turned violent. After calling for the resignation of the King’s advisors and dissolution of parliament, protesters broke into the ASEAN summit, forcing its cancellation. Prime Minister Abhisit declared a state of emergency in Pattaya and next day in Bangkok.
Demonstrations turned into riots as street battles between soldiers and protesters ended with some 120 injured and two Bangkok residents shot dead during an apparent clash with protestors. Protest leaders voluntarily ended the rally on 14 April, citing safety concerns, but promised more protests soon. Prime Minister Abhisit lifted the state of emergency on 24 April and called for constitutional reforms.
Similar protests erupted in March 2010 and have been carried on for two months. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), commonly referred to as Red Shirt, rallied in Bangkok after Prime Minister Abhisit rejected their demand to resign and call for early elections. Indications of use of firearms by supporters and opponents alike were apparent. In attempts to subside the protests, and claiming that they are targeting "terrorists" within protesters rather than civilians, the government ordered military intervention in the manifestations.
In early April 2009, a border clash between Thai and Cambodian forces saw two Thai soldiers killed, and a further nine injured; both sides blamed other and downplayed the incident.
Benjamin Zawacki, "Politically Inconvenient, Legally Correct: A Non-international Armed Conflict in Southern Thailand", Journal of Conflict and Security Law (2012)