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Terrorism in Southeast Asia: Thailand

The most wanted man in Southeast Asia, an Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali (inset), was arrested in this apartment outside Bangkok two years ago. Hambali was operations chief for Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda's point man in Southeast Asia.
Michael Sullivan, NPR; Hambali Photo: © Reuters/Corbis
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The most wanted man in Southeast Asia, an Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali (inset), was arrested in this apartment outside Bangkok two years ago. Hambali was operations chief for Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda's point man in Southeast Asia.

Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah operatives have moved through Thailand in the past decade. The porous border between southern Thailand and Malaysia makes it easy for terrorists to cross freely.

Meanwhile, the 18-month-old separatist insurgency in mainly Muslim southern Thailand, in which more than 900 people have died in the past year, has many worried. Analysts warn that foreigners from al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah and similar groups could hijack the rebellion if the Thai government doesn't address the problem. This bodes ill not just for Thailand's tourism industry, but regional stability as a whole.

Michael Sullivan completes a three-part series on the fight against terrorism in Southeast Asia.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.