Supporters of the Islamic State in Thailand have posted propaganda videos on the internet -- the first such videos produced by the militant group with Thai subtitles, a senior Thai security official told BenarNews.
The videos are the latest effort of a Thai group that has been promoting IS ideology for several months on social media accounts, which have gained “thousands of followers” before being shut down, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Thai propaganda activity indicates that IS has spread its tentacles into Thailand, he said. IS already has active supporters in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia.
“As far as I see, the original video is produced by the IS and the Thai subtitles – for the first time, we see such Thai subtitles – were done by the Thailand-based Pulse of the Islamic World," the official said.
"The translator's language proficiency showed he is well-educated in both religion and general knowledge, given his translation from Arabic to Thai. There are links between IS sympathizers inside and out of Thailand," he added.
Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Thai citizens have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join the jihadist group, but authorities are monitoring the movements of IS sympathizers, the source said.
One of the videos, a four-minute clip titled “No Respite” with an Arabic voice-over, was posted on YouTube on Nov. 28. It features fast-changing images of IS fighters praying in their combat fatigues or holding up weapons in the war zone in Syria and Iraq, among many other photos.
“We are true Muslim men who are honored to operate under ‘one’ flag and are loyal to our mighty God, and here we triumph,” an excerpt from the narration says. The video also shows images of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as photos of Western forces in the Middle East.
That video was blocked a day after being posted on YouTube but reappeared on Nov. 30 on a Thai-language Facebook page with the English headline “The Flames of War” – a phrase that also appears on the website of Al Hayat, the media wing of IS.
“From Inside Halab,” another Al Hayat-produced propaganda video, appeared on the same Facebook page with Thai subtitles.
It was not immediately clear when IS originally disseminated the videos, and whether these were also produced in other languages.
IS in Southeast Asia
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, but has a majority Muslim population in its Deep South region, where a separatist insurgency has raged for at least a decade.
While Thai officials have played down the threat of an IS presence in the country, officials in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia have been warning about the group’s growing influence in recruiting local youths on home soil.
Pro-IS videos have surfaced online that are clearly targeted toward audiences in those countries. IS has its own Malay-speaking combat unit made up of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters.
IS also publishes propaganda geared for a Malay-speaking audience. In March, the media unit released a video that showed young Southeast Asian boys being trained to use weapons.
And, on Nov. 15, the Straits Times of Singapore reported that some Malaysian militants hiding in the Philippines were looking to start a Southeast Asian chapter of IS, by merging terrorist groups in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In Thailand, officials and observers voiced skepticism about IS being deeply implanted in the kingdom, compared with the neighboring countries.
“There is no report of Deep South natives joining ISIS,” Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong, a senior army official, told BenarNews, using another acronym for the group.
Srisompob Jitpiromsri, who directs Deep South Watch, a group that advocates for and monitors peace-building efforts in the southern region, expressed doubt that many Thai Muslims had embraced IS’s ideology.
“It reflects the agreement, support and acceptance of IS by Muslim Thais but should be less than five percent of the Muslim population,” he told BenarNews, commenting on the “No Respite” video.
“And in this five percent, there are those who live in the Deep South, but, again, they are a small faction and they don’t have the clout to lead the thoughts of people, especially those Muslims who don’t agree with the IS,” Srisompob added.
Doloh Musem, a native of Yala, a province in the Deep South, said he had witnessed a friend talking by phone with a Thai Muslim who was an IS sympathizer based in Bangkok.
“The person talked to my friend with the speaker-phone on, so I could hear how he preached to my friend about IS,” Doloh told BenarNews, adding, “You can’t deny that there are IS supporters in Thailand.”