Terrorism – A Threat for Urban Dwellers Be in the Know, Be on the Lookout for a Safe Society

Chula Political Science Lecturer alerts our society on the dangers of “urban terrorism” and the need to build a knowledge base for crisis management should an incident occur while also proposing that the government should invest in national security.

 While current situations of the pandemic, war, and soaring oil prices are captivating issues for many people because of the severe impacts on their daily lives, the matter of “terrorism” still remains a threat for urban residents, especially amid a conflicting political climate which cannot be neglected.

According to the 2022 Global Terrorism Index, Thailand ranked 22nd out of 163 countries around the world — three places higher than last year.  This means Thailand continues to suffer from relatively high levels of terrorism (source: https://www.visionofhumanity.org/maps/global-terrorism-index/#/).

“As urban citizens, we should be aware of the dangers of terrorism and have sufficient knowledge to be vigilant, survive attacks, and help make our urban society safer,” said Professor Dr. Surachart Bamrungsuk, Lecturer, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, during the “All Around Us” program on Chulalongkorn Radio recently.


How is terrorism different from crime?

Prof. Dr. Surachart said that each society has different definitions and meanings of “terrorism” and its universal definition is not conclusive.  However, a violent incident that can constitute “terrorism” is in the “motives for the attacks.”

“If the motive of the attack is personal, even if the attack is violent, it can’t be considered terrorism, like the case of a student who shot friends and teachers in school. Although it’s violent, it may not be terrorism, but if the student is found following the website of a terrorist movement and commits mass shooting of friends, this may be an act of terrorism.”

The “motives” of the crime, therefore, differentiate “terrorists” from “criminals”.  Prof. Dr. Surachart elaborated that a crime is an act of violence with no political goals, but aimed at property gain or infliction upon individuals, while terrorism is aimed at political change or perpetration by members of the terrorist movement, such as the 9/11 incident, or the Boko Haram kidnapping of more than 300 girls in Nigeria, for example.

“In the past, terrorists were either in a group or members of a terrorist movement, but now there are “lone actors” who may not be fully part of movement, but follow the movement’s doctrine and are influenced by the movement’s ideology, and then get up and act on their own.”                               


Patterns and tools of terrorism

Violence is a tool of terrorism, which can take many forms and methods. “Everything is a tool of violence — a knife, a gun, but basically, an explosive,” Prof. Dr. Surachat said.

Nowadays, rigorous explosive surveillance has changed the way bombings are carried out, for example, instead of leaving bags containing explosives in one place, suicide bombs may be used. Vehicles are used to rush into the crowd, as was the case on September 11, or when drivers crashed into people celebrating the French National Day in 2016. Chemical and biological weapons could also be used as tools for terrorism, as was the case in the attack on the Tokyo, Japan subway with sarin gas in 1998, and the use of “anthrax” in mail envelopes in the U.S. in 2001.  

However, Prof. Dr. Surachat believes that no terrorist movements are currently capable of producing biological and chemical weapons at a mass destruction scale.


Be on the lookout for terrorist activity

Terrorism often occurs in urban areas, and taking precautions is difficult. One way to survive a terrorist threat is to be observant and watchful of your surroundings.

“When you notice something strange, unusual or out of place, do not touch it,” Prof. Dr. Surachat warns, adding that society should have the knowledge on how to deal with terrorism, such as when there’s a bombing or a bomb threat, or what to do when an incident occurs, etc.


“We need to learn and practice evacuation, assemble a war room, or even the use of cell phones in an emergency because we have no way of knowing if the signal could detonate a bomb or not.”

The government sector must recognize this threat and invest in national security to cope with modern terrorist threats.

“Urban societies are vulnerable in themselves. Big cities, not only Bangkok, all have vulnerabilities that allow the perpetrators to exploit for terrorism. Therefore, investment in national security is necessary,” Prof. Dr. Surachat concluded.

Watch the already-aired “All Around Us” episode “Terrorism in Urban Society” at  https://youtu.be/JxyqVwD5v-8.


Source: https://www.chula.ac.th/en/highlight/71602/