Reappraising Thailand’s Counterinsurgency, 1965-1985

  • Mr. Gregory F. Lawless

In 1965, the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) took up arms against Thai security forces. The Thai response to the insurgency was uneven. A 1968 article for Foreign Affairs reflected contemporary concerns: “Northeast Thailand: Tomorrow’s Vietnam?” Questions arose whether the Thai government was quelling the uprising or fueling the grievances that supported the insurgency. This case study examines the Royal Thai Government’s successful suppression of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), including activities in 1978-1980 and the political policies announced in 1980 that reduced the CPT’s strength and diminished its appeal to the populace. This review will examine the security situation and the political landscape of Thailand from 1965 to 1985 to test the thesis that the political astuteness of the “semi-democratic” military regime in power from 1977 until 1988 bears the greatest responsibility for the successful elimination of the Communist Party of Thailand as a viable threat. The key to the success of this counterinsurgency strategy lay in the political formulae the Thai regime employed for a “political offensive.”