From the Small Wars Journal . . .
The RTN Victory
Regarding the battlefield victory on 13 February, Royal Thai Marines (a branch of the Royal Thai Navy) and Royal Thai Navy SEALs ambushed and routed more than 60 insurgents that attempted a nighttime raid on a Marine base in Bacho, Narathiwat. The insurgents had laid intricate assault plans for a complex nighttime operation. They sported camouflage uniforms, assault vests, and some had attached flashlights to their assault rifles. The flex cuffs some of them carried indicate they were aiming to secure prisoners, possibly to use as leverage in up-and-coming peace talks. The insurgents even covertly inserted a forward attack element within 100 yards of the base hours before the assault began. They had indeed done their homework on the base, demonstrating their professionalism.
Thai authorities, however, had obtained detailed intelligence on the raid beforehand. One report has RTN forces killing a top insurgent who had the raid plans on his person. Another says insurgents had infiltrated the village next to the Marine base, and villagers informed on them. It could also have been a combination of these two scenarios, or neither. In Thailand, there are usually multiple explanations for such happenings, and back-stories abound as well.
Regardless, the RTN exploited intelligence quickly for use by direct action (DA) forces. Commanders quietly inserted Recon Marines and SEALs into the camp. These elite forces set up an ambush, and then patiently watched and waited. When they spotted the insurgents’ forward assault element low crawling into position at around 9 pm, they held their fire, exhibiting high discipline. They wanted the entire assault element to come into their kill zone, which they knew would happen a few hours later.
When the insurgents finally launched their assault, they ran into a hail of weapons fire as the Recon Marines and SEALs quickly established fire superiority. Within 20 minutes, they had killed 16 insurgents. Realizing their mistake, the insurgents broke off the attack, still under fire, and Thai government forces pursued them, following blood trails and tire tracks. They continued into the next day, checking medical clinics and hospitals for people with gunshot wounds.
Badly defeated, the insurgents were in dire need of flexing their muscles so as not to lose recruits and let morale slide, so they struck back quickly. They tried to bomb 50 civilian targets throughout the south but were only partially successful due to the amateurish placement of the devices. They did manage to firebomb several businesses in downtown Pattani and assassinate a few people, however.
The RTN’s victory suggests the government is following Sir Robert Thompson’s COIN adage (paraphrased): “Get in place that which is correct, and that which is sustainable, and play for the breaks.” Bangkok had an intelligence system up and in place to exploit insurgent missteps, it had DA assets plugged into the intelligence system ready for deployment, and it had the leadership and expertise to bring it all together and make it happen. And the RTG also caught a lucky break, an unspoken requirement in COIN.
I trained Royal Thai Army Special Forces, SEALs, and I actually completed the jump that earned me my star & wreath on my jump wings leading a stick of Thai Border Patrol Policemen out of a Royal Thai Air Force C-47 Dakota over Haadyai, South Thailand - the same place this battle took place - I gave the jump commands IN THAI and once I hit the ground I didn't speak a word of English the rest of the week . . . its good to see our efforts were worth it. Like they say in Thailand: "Chok Dee!" (Good Luck)