Thailand’s foreign minister, Kantathi Suphamongkhon, showed yesterday that he’s not quite up to speed with the new orthodoxy on Islamic terrorism, when he denied that Muslim unrest in the south of the country was linked to Al-Qa’eda. According to AFP, he said there is “no indication of any foreign terrorism involvement in the situation.”

Doesn’t he know that the international Islamist conspiracy is the modern scapegoat for internal dissent? Witness Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Aceh, Xinjiang, Kashmir …

But in other respects, Kantathi stayed on-message, ruling out any autonomy for the south: “It’s a unified system that we have. We don’t have the concept of autonomy within our constitution.”

The three southernmost provinces of Thailand have been under martial law since the beginning of last year due to separatist unrest. Logically, they should be part of Malaysia: their people speak Malay dialects, not Thai; they are Muslims, not Buddhists; and they are much closer to Malaysia’s cities than they are to Bangkok.

National boundaries, of course, are not determined by logic, and it may be that the people of the region are content to stay part of Thailand.
But that should be their choice. Denying them self-determination just risks creating another breeding ground for terrorism, Al-Qa’eda or not.