Visitors to Thailand are not warned by travel agents, airlines or their own governments that their passports are highly prized in Thailand, and stand a very good chance of being stolen. Depending on the nationality, a passport can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market, several months pay for many Thais. There are gangs stealing passports to order. European, American, Australian and Canadian passports are particularly prized. Foreign embassies, fearful the documents are ending up in the hands of Islamist militants and international criminal networks, have made repeated representations to the Thai government without affect. INTERPOL Chief, Secretary General Ronald Noble describes passport fraud as the “biggest threat facing the world”. But for decades the Thai authorities have done little to stop their country’s blatant trade in stolen, doctored and forged documents. By inaction and complicity, Thailand has become an epicentre for the trade, a key link in international terrorist networks and a danger to the travelling public worldwide. Forged passports from Thailand are regarded as the highest quality of any in the world. Clients from the Middle East are one of the major buyers of fake passports in Thailand. In The Age of Terror, the failure of the Thai authorities to abolish the trade has set alarm bells ringing around the world. Here in its entirety is Chapter Two, called Passports, from the recent book Thailand: Deadly Destination.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Joby Warrick reveals in Black Flags: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of The Islamic State how the stain of militant Islam now raising its banner across Iraq and Syria spread from a remote Jordanian prison with the unwitting aid of American military intervention. When he succeeded his father in 1999, King Abdullah of Jordan released a batch of political prisoners in the hopes of smoothing his transition to power. Little did he know that among those released was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man who would go on to become a terrorist mastermind too dangerous even for al-Qaeda and give rise to an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East. Zarqawi began by directing hotel bombings and assassinations in Jordan from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion of that country in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency.
Douglas Murray in his own words: I was already writing about the migration issues occasionally. During the height of the migration crisis in 2015 I was reporting on bits of it and I got frustrated about not being able to explain the whole story because the facts and the emotions they provoke are fantastically complex. None of it is simple or easy. And I suppose like a lot of us who write, you get frustrated trying to do it in one or two thousand words in an article.
I was a long way from home in the Far East. And I had this realisation I had to write a book about the whole thing as I saw it. I find it the most fascinating subject of our time as well as the most troubling. And also being an inveterate walker into places where more sensible people fear to tread, all the difficult bits seemed to me to be the things that need to be thought about and written about and discussed. And I wanted to be able to do that at length.
Timothy Mo, who as the son of wealthy Hong Kong Chinese attended Oxford, is a superbly gifted writer but a difficult man who has long fought with his publishers. Once a favourite of the English literary set, he fell out of favour. In later life he has produced a masterwork, Pure. Mo had always wondered why a dynamic art form such as fiction had failed to confront the single most pressing issue of the age, the minds and motivations of Muslim fundamentalists. With a tide of jihad sweeping the world, the question became ever more pressing. In Pure Timothy Mo uses the device of character. He pits an ice addicted yaba addled Bangkok lady boy, a freelance entertainment journalist called Snooky, “Snooky was lonely because she was smart”, into the world of mujaheddin training camps in southern Thailand. Co-opted as a spy, there she grows a beard, participates in forays into the world of jihad in Indonesia, and reports to her minder, caught between the hidden, complex worlds of intelligence operatives and Muslim jihadists. Thanks to fights with his publishers, this book has never received the attention it deserves. Simply put: Pure is a must read, a neglected masterpiece.
By May of 2015 the security situation in Australia had deteriorated to an alarming extent. The authorities were scared witless another terror attack was imminent. For more than 12 months they had been putting out spot fires across the country, in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, along with other regional and state centres. The increasing radicalisation of the Muslim minority, fanned by the rise of the single most powerful religious movement in modern times, the Islamic State, posed a major threat to the safety of Australian citizens. And as any firefighter could tell you, there were only so many spot fires you could put out before the forest ignited. The dreadful security situation in Australia had been fanned by a lunatic decision by the government to once again join America, the Great Satan as the Islamic community regarded them, in invading Muslim lands aka Iraq. There was no reason to do so; no treaty obligation, no security situation which could justify the invasion of sovereign lands. The Muslim minority was incensed by the inhumane killing of mujaheddin by high-tech drones launched from Australian fighter jets. They were incensed by the Australian governments labeling of some of their members as un-Australian, when in many ways, their regular attendance at mosque, their faithfulness to their wives, the good care they took of their children, the fact they did not smoke, drink or take drugs and had strong ties with their communities, all marked them as far better citizens than many members of the decrepit society they saw around them. The mishandling of the situation by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who repeatedly ignored expert advice on how to deal with a religious minority with which he clearly had no affinity or understanding, had ramped the terror threat through the roof. The entire devolving security situation was set against a rapid collapse in Australian society, which had seen a once proud, optimistic, larrikin country become impoverished, dispirited, and broken, the streets of Sydney, its major city, more like walking through a Mad Max movie than a major city, the only difference being the black birds were replaced by squawking seagulls from the nearby beaches; just as eery, just as apocryphal in their mournful cries.
The Rise of Islamic State, written by senior Middle Eastern correspondent Patrick Cockburn, explores the origins of history’s most successful terrorist group and the unfolding of US and the West’s greatest foreign policy debacle. In military operations, by mid 2014 they had outreached Al Qaeda, taking territory that reached across borders and included the city of Mosul. The reports of their military power and brutality to their victims continue to shock and intimidate the West. Out of the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring and Syria, a weakened Al-Qaeda has allowed for new jihadi movements, especially Islamic State.
ISIS Exposed: Beheadings, Slavery and the Hellish Reality of Radical Islam, by host of CBN’s The Watchman Erick Stakelbeck, unveils how the propaganda masters of Islamic State are determined to get the West’s attention. They’ve humiliated the Iraqi Army trained by America and seized territory in Iraq that had been secured at the cost of so much American blood and treasure. They’ve beheaded American journalists on camera in a direct challenge to the power and resolve of the United States. And now ISIS is calling for “city wolves” across the United States, Europe and Australia to act on their dedication to the Islamic State’s blood-drenched ideology and murder random Americans going about our daily business.
Award-winning former NPR correspondent, foreign policy expert, and associate at the Carnegie Endowment, Sarah Chayes has an urgent warning in her new book Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens National Security. Militant puritanical religion is presenting as a just alternative to depraved secular rule.