Skip to main content Accessibility help

Hegemonic Distortions: The Securitisation of the Insurgency in Thailand's Deep South

  • Nicole Jenne (a1) and Jun Yan Chang (a2)


The conflict between the Thai state and the Malay-Muslim insurgency in the country's Deep South is one of Southeast Asia's most persistent internal security challenges. The start of the current period of violence dates back to the early 2000s, and since then, a significant number of studies exploring the renewed escalation have been published. In this study, we argue that existing scholarship has not adequately accounted for the external environment in which political decisions were taken on how to deal with the southern insurgency. We seek to show how the internationally dominant, hegemonic security agenda of so-called non-traditional security (NTS) influenced the Thai government's approach to the conflict. Building upon the Copenhagen School's securitisation theory, we show how the insurgency became securitised under the dominant NTS narrative, leading to the adoption of harsh measures and alienating discourses that triggered the escalation of violence that continues today. The specific NTS frameworks that ‘distorted’ the Thai state's approach of one that had been informed solely by local facts and conditions were those of anti-narcotics and Islamist terrorism, albeit in different ways. Based on the findings from the case study, the article concludes with a reflection on the role of the hegemonic NTS agenda and its implications for Southeast Asian politics and scholarship.



Hide All
Abulof, Uriel. 2014. “Deep securitization and Israel's ‘Demographic Demon’.” International Political Sociology 84: 396415.
Abuza, Zachary. 2009. Conspiracy of Silence: The Insurgency in Southern Thailand. Perspectives Series. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Abuza, Zachary. 2011. “Borderlands, terrorism, and insurgency in Southeast Asia.” In The Borderlands of Southeast Asia: Geopolitics, Terrorism, and Globalization, edited by Clad, James, McDonald, Sean, and Vaughn, Bruce, 89106. Washington, DC: NDU Press.
Abuza, Zachary. 2014. Religion in the Southern Thailand conflict, The Interpreter, 10 October. Available at: (accessed 3 August 2018).
Acharya, Amitav. 2009. Whose Ideas Matter? Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Alagappa, Muthiah, ed. 1995. Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Anwar, Dewi Fortuna. 1996. “Indonesia's strategic culture: Ketahanan Nasional, Wawasan Nusantara and Hankamrata.” Australia-Asia Papers No. 75.
Askew, Marc. 2007. “Thailand's recalcitrant Southern borderland: Insurgency, conspiracies and the disorderly state.” Asian Security 3(2): 99120.
Askew, Marc. 2010. “Insurgency and the market for violence in Southern Thailand.” Asian Survey 50(6): 11071134.
Baldwin, David A. 1995. “Security studies and the end of the Cold War.” World Politics 48(1): 117141.
Baldwin, David A. 1997. “The concept of security.” Review of International Studies 23(1): 526.
Ball, Desmond, and Nicholas, Farrelly. 2012. “Interpreting 10 years of violence in Thailand's Deep South.” Security Challenges 8(2): 118.
Balzacq, Thierry. 2005. “The three faces of securitization: Political agency, audience and context.” European Journal of International Relations 11(2): 171201.
Balzacq, Thierry, Sarah, Léonard, and Jan, Ruzicka. 2016. “‘Securitization’ revisited: Theory and cases.” International Relations 30(4): 494531.
Bangkok Post. 2014. Embracing Militias with Open Arms. 23 November. Available at: (accessed 3 August 2018).
Bigo, Didier. 2002. “Security and immigration: Toward a critique of the governmentality of unease.” Alternatives 27(1_suppl): 6392.
Bilgin, Pinar. 2011. “The politics of studying securitization: The Copenhagen School in Turkey.” Security Dialogue 42(4–5): 399412.
Buzan, Barry, and Lene, Hansen. 2009. The Evolution of International Security Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Buzan, Barry, and Ole, Wæver. 2009. “Macrosecuritisation and security constellations: Reconsidering scale in securitisation theory.” Review of International Studies 35(2): 253276.
Buzan, Barry, Ole, Wæver, and de Wilde, Jaap. 1998. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Caballero-Anthony, Mely. 2010. “The new security agenda in Asia.” In The Routledge Handbook of Asian Security Studies, edited by Ganguly, Sumit, Scobell, Andrew, and Liow, Joseph, 311325. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Caballero-Anthony, Mely. 2016. “Understanding non-traditional security.” In An Introduction to Non-Traditional Security Studies: A Transnational Approach, edited by Caballero-Anthony, Mely, 319. London: Sage.
Chang, Jun Yan. 2016. “Globalisation's impact on Navies in the Asia-Pacific: From the modern to the postmodern to the ‘Quatumodern’.” In Armed Forces for 2020 and Beyond: Roles | Tasks | Expectations, edited by Feichtinger, Walter and Hensellek, Benedict, 125143. Research Report of the National Defence Academy 27/2015. Vienna: Austrian National Defence Academy.
Chang, Jun Yan. 2019. “Conscripting the audience: Singapore's successful securitisation of vulnerability.” In National Service in Singapore, edited by Ho, Shu Huang and Ong-Webb, Graham, 83103. Singapore: World Scientific.
Channel News Asia. 2018. Philippines Summons US Envoy over Duterte ‘Threat’ Report, 23 February.
Chong, Alan. 2012. “Premodern Southeast Asia as a guide to international relations between peoples prowess and prestige in ‘Intersocietal Relations’ in the Sejarah Melayu.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 37(2): 87105.
Connors, Michael. 2006a. “Thailand and the United States: Beyond hegemony.” In Bush and Asia: America's Evolving Relations with East Asia, edited by Beeson, Mark, 128144. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Connors, Michael. 2006b. “War on terror and the Southern fire: How terrorism analysts get it wrong.” Critical Asian Studies 38(1): 151175.
Crispin, Shawn. 2004. “Thailand's war zone.” Far-Eastern Economic Review 167(10).
Croft, Stuart. 2012. Securitizing Islam: Identity and the Search for Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Croissant, Aurel. 2005. “Unrest in South Thailand: Contours, causes, and consequences since 2001.” Contemporary Southeast Asia 27(1): 2143.
Davis, Tony. 2006. Interview, Jane's Defense Weekly, 31 May.
Dewitt, David. 1994. “Common, comprehensive, and cooperative security.” The Pacific Review 7(1): 115.
Emmers, Ralf. 2003. “ASEAN and the securitization of transnational crime in Southeast Asia.” The Pacific Review 16: 419438.
Emmers, Ralf, and Mely, Caballero-Anthony. 2006. “Introduction.” In Studying Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Trends and Issues, edited by Emmers, Ralf, Caballero-Anthony, Mely, and Acharya, Amitav, xiiixix. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic.
Farrell, Tom. 2014. “Southern discomfort: Prospects for Thailand's Malay Muslim insurgency.” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis 6(3): 410.
Febrica, Senia. 2010. “Securitizing terrorism in Southeast Asia: Accounting for the varying responses of Singapore and Indonesia.” Asian Survey 50(3): 569590.
Floyd, Rita. 2010. Security and the Environment: Securitisation Theory and US Environmental Security Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Floyd, Rita. 2016. “Extraordinary or ordinary emergency measures: What, and who, defines the ‘success’ of securitization?Cambridge Review of International Affairs 29 (2): 677694.
Fullbrook, David. 2003. Thai war on drugs: Hollow victory, Asia Times, 17 December. Available at: (accessed 3 August 2018).
Funston, John. 2008a. Conflict in Southern Thailand: Causes, Agents and Trajectory. ARC Federation Fellowship: Islam, Syari'ah and Governance, Background Paper No. 2. Melbourne: Melbourne Law School.
Funston, John. 2008b. Southern Thailand: The Dynamics of Conflict. Policy Studies 50. Washington, DC: East-West Center.
Gad, Ulrik Pram, and Petersen, Karen Lund. 2011. “Concepts of politics in securitization studies.” Security Dialogue 42(4–5): 315328.
Gunaratna, Rohan, Arabinda, Acharya, and Sabrina, Chua. 2005. Conflict and Terrorism in Southern Thailand. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish.
Gunaratna, Rohan, and Acharya, Arabinda. 2013. The Terrorist Threat from Thailand: Jihad or Quest for Justice? Washington, DC: Potomac Books, Inc.
Haacke, Jürgen, and Paul D., Williams. 2008. “Regional arrangements, securitization, and transnational security challenges: The African Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations compared.” Security Studies 17(4): 775809.
Hameiri, Shahar, and Lee, Jones. 2013. “The politics and governance of non-traditional security.” International Studies Quarterly 57(3): 462473.
Hameiri, Shahar, and Lee, Jones. 2015. Governing Borderless Threats: Non-Traditional Security and the Politics of State Transformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harish, S.P., and Joseph, Liow. 2007. “The coup and the conflict in Southern Thailand.” Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 19(1): 161184.
Harish, S.P. 2006. “Ethnic or religious cleavage? Investigating the nature of the conflict in Southern Thailand.Contemporary Southeast Asia 28(1): 4869.
Hathaway, Robert M., and Michael, Wills. 2013. “Introduction: New security challenges for a new century.” In New Security Challenges in Asia, edited by Wills, Michael and Hathaway, Robert M., 123. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
Herschinger, Eva. 2011. Constructing Global Enemies: Hegemony and Identity in International Discourses on Terrorism and Drug Prohibition. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
HRW. 2004. Thailand–Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights. Human Rights Watch.
HRW. 2007. No One Is Safe: Insurgent Attacks on Civilians in Thailand's Southern Border Provinces. Human Rights Watch.
Huysmans, Jef. 2006. The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration and Asylum in the EU. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Huysmans, Jef. 2011. “What's in an act? On security speech acts and little security nothings.” Security Dialogue 42(4–5): 371383.
ICG. 2005. Southern Thailand: Insurgency, Not Jihad. Crisis Group Asia Report No. 98. Bangkok/Brussels: International Crisis Group.
ICG. 2012. Thailand: The Evolving Conflict in the South. Crisis Group Asia Report No. 241. Bangkok/Brussels: International Crisis Group.
ICG. 2015. Southern Thailand: Dialogue in Doubt. Crisis Group Asia Report No. 270. Brussels: International Crisis Group.
Jerryson, Michael. 2009. “Appropriating a space for violence: State Buddhism in Southern Thailand.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 40(1): 3357.
Jitpiromsri, Srisompob, and Sobhonvasu, Panyasak. 2006. “Unpacking Thailand's southern conflict: The poverty of structural explanations.” Critical Asian Studies 38(1): 95117.
Jones, Lee. 2011. “Beyond securitization: Explaining the scope of security policy in Southeast Asia.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 11(3): 403432.
Jory, Patrick. 2007. “From ‘Melayu Patani’ to ‘Thai Muslim’: The spectre of ethnic identity in southern Thailand.” South East Asia Research 15(2): 255279.
Kristensen, Peter Marcus. 2015. “International Relations in China and Europe: The case for interregional dialogue in a hegemonic discipline.” The Pacific Review 28(2): 161187.
Levi, Margaret. 2004. “An analytic narrative approach to puzzles and problems.” In Problems and Methods in the Study of Politics, edited by Shapiro, Ian, Smith, Rogers M., and Masoud, Tarek E., 201226. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Liow, Joseph. 2004. “The security situation in southern Thailand: Toward an understanding of domestic and international dimensions.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 27(6): 531548.
Liow, Joseph. 2006. Muslim Resistance in Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines Religion, Ideology, and Politics. Policy Studies 24. Washington, DC: East-West Center.
Liow, Joseph. 2016. Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Liow, Joseph, and Don, Pathan. 2010. Confronting Ghosts: Thailand's Shapeless Southern Insurgency. Lowy Institute Paper Series No. 30. Double Bay: Lowy Institute.
Los Angeles Times. 2018. CIA's Legacy of Torture Lives on in Thailand. 23 April. Available at: (accessed 3 August 2018).
Mak, J.N. 2006. “Securitizing piracy in Southeast Asia: Malaysia, the international maritime bureau and Singapore.” In Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitization, edited by Caballero-Anthony, Mely, Emmers, Ralf and Acharya, Amitav, 6692. Hampshire: Ashgate.
Marchand, Marianne H. 2017. “Crossing borders in North America after 9/11: ‘Regular’ Travellers’ narratives of securitisations and contestations.” Third World Quarterly 38(6): 12321248.
McCargo, Duncan. 2006a. “Introduction: Rethinking Thailand's Southern violence.” Critical Asian Studies 38(1): 310.
McCargo, Duncan. 2006b. “Thaksin and the resurgence of violence in the Thai South: Network monarchy strikes Back?Critical Asian Studies 38(1): 3971.
McCargo, Duncan. 2007. Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence. Singapore: NUS Press.
McCargo, Duncan. 2008. Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
McCargo, Duncan. 2009. “Thai Buddhism, Thai Buddhists and the southern conflict.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 40(1): 110.
McCargo, Duncan. 2010a. “Autonomy for Southern Thailand: Thinking the unthinkable?Pacific Affairs 83(2): 261281.
McCargo, Duncan. 2010b. “Thailand's National Reconciliation Commission: A flawed response to the southern conflict.” Global Change, Peace & Security 22(1): 7591.
McDonald, Matt. 2008. “Securitization and the construction of security.” European Journal of International Relations 14(4): 563587.
McDonald, Matt. 2012. “The failed securitization of climate change in Australia.” Australian Journal of Political Science 47(4): 579592.
Melvin, Neil J. 2007. “Conflict in southern Thailand: Islamism, violence and the state in the Patani Insurgency’.” SIPRI Policy Paper Series No. 20.
Peoples, Columba, and Nick, Vaughan-Williams. 2010. Critical Security Studies: An Introduction. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Pouliot, Vincent. 2008. “The logic of practicality: A theory of practice of security communities.” International Organization 62(2): 257288.
Salter, Mark B., and Can E., Mutlu. 2013. “Securitisation and Diego Garcia.” Review of International Studies 39(4): 815834.
Storey, Ian. 2008a. “Securing Southeast Asia's sea lanes: A work in progress.” Asia Policy 6: 95128.
Storey, Ian. 2008b. “Southern discomfort: Separatist conflict in the Kingdom of Thailand.” Asian Affairs: An American Review 35(1): 3152.
Stritzel, Holger. 2014. Security in Translation: Securitization Theory and the Localization of Threat. London: Palgrave.
Stritzel, Holger, and Sean C., Chang. 2015. “Securitization and counter-Securitization in Afghanistan.” Security Dialogue 46(6): 548567.
Tan, See Seng. 2002. “Human security: Discourse, statecraft, emancipation.” In The Human Face of Security: Asia-Pacific Perspectives, edited by Dickens, David, 3043. Canberra: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.
Tannenwald, Nina. 2015. “Process tracing and security studies.” Security Studies 24(2): 219227.
Thanet, Aphornsuvan. 2006. Rebellion in Southern Thailand: Contending Histories. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
UCDP. 2018. Uppsala Conflict Data Program. UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia: Uppsala University. (accessed 18 November 2018).
Ukrist, Pathmanand. 2006. “Thaksin's Achilles’ heel: The failure of hawkish approaches in the Thai South.” Critical Asian Studies 38(1): 7393.
Wæver, Ole. 2012. “Aberystwyth, Paris, Copenhagen: The Europeanness of new ‘Schools’ of security theory in an American field.” In Thinking International Relations Differently, edited by Tickner, Arlene B. and Blaney, David L., 4871. New York: Routledge.
Waldner, David. 2015. “Process tracing and qualitative causal inference.” Security Studies 24(2): 239250.
Wheeler, Matt. 2003. From Marketplace to Battlefield: Counting the Costs of Thailand's Drug War. ICWA Letters. New Hampshire: ICWA.
Wheeler, Matt. 2009. “The USA, the war on terror, and the violence in southernmost Thailand.” In Imagined Land? State and Southern Violence in Thailand, edited by Satha-Anand, Chaiwat, 179198. Tokyo: Research Institute for Language and Cultures of Asia and Africa.
Wolters, Oliver William. 1999. History, Culture, and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.
Zimmerman, Erin. 2016. Think Tanks and Non-Traditional Security: Governance Entrepreneurs in Asia. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Hegemonic Distortions: The Securitisation of the Insurgency in Thailand's Deep South

  • Nicole Jenne (a1) and Jun Yan Chang (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.