Southern Thai Insurgency

Most of Duncan McCargo’s academic work from 2005 until 2012 was focused on the Southern Thai conflict, an insurgency centred on the historically Malay Muslim region that currently includes the Thai provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. Renewed violence in the area since 2004 has claimed more than 7000 lives.

McCargo first visited the region in 2000 and subsequently established a British Council-funded collaboration with Prince of Songkhla University, Pattani campus. Working closely with Dr Srisompob Jitpiromsri and other local colleagues, he spent twelve months conducting ESRC-funded fieldwork in the area in 2005-06, examining the causes of the ongoing insurgent violence by conducting more than 270 interviews. He spent the following year at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, where he wrote Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (Cornell 2008), which remains the standard work on the conflict.

Tearing Apart the Land won the inaugural Bernard Schwartz Book Prize from the Asia Society of New York in 2009 (worth $20,000), was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of 2009, and was later translated into Thai. McCargo has also produced more than 25 additional publications on the insurgency, including the companion book Mapping National Anxieties (2012) and the edited volume Rethinking Thailand’s Southern Violence (2007).

Duncan McCargo argues that the Southern Thai insurgency is not caused by ordinary criminality or by uneven socio-economic development: it is a political problem that can only be resolved through the decentralization of power to local people, probably via some form of regional autonomy.

A list of Duncan McCargo’s publications on the Southern Thai conflict is available here