Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand

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By Duncan McCargo

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 neighbouring provinces and the Thai's 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extensive knowledge of the region, hundreds of interviews conducted during a year's research in the troubled area, and unpublished Thai-language sources that range from anonymous leaflets to confessions extracted by Thai security forces, McCargo locates the roots of the conflict in the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".

For readers interested in contemporary Southeast Asia, insurgency and counter insurgency, 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 military movement, and the conflict’s disastrous impact on daily life in the deep South.


"Tearing Apart the Land is a controversial study of the Pattani conflict. Its major arguments are based on solid evidence besides well supported assumptions...a superb attempt to unravel the southern conflict in an intelligent manner, to make sense of a senseless violence which could provide a better understanding to Thais, Malay Muslims and outsiders, including regional neighbours. For those still in the field the book had definitely set a high standard of research, something that is difficult to emulate." - Abu Talib Ahmad


Duncan McCargo is Professor of Southeast Asian Politics at the University of Leeds. He is also the editor of Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence.


Publication Year: 2009
264 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-475-3, Paperback

NUS Press