Relationship between rubber prices and the South Thailand conflict

When commenting about the decline in violence in South Thailand recently, someone remarked that there was a link to declining rubber prices. This seemed like an interesting hypothesis so I investigated to see how true this is.

TL;DR: no connection

The three Southern border provinces have been the target of low level insurgency from 2001 (source: wikipedia) with no official demands ever being made by the perpetrators. In the meanwhile the insurgency has been attributed to every party from separatist groups, smugglers, capitalists, army, neighboring countries and other vested interest that have the potential to gain from ongoing violence in the region.

The South is also a major producer of rubber,  with 95% of Thai rubber plantations being based there (source: so it’s not surprising for there to be a hypothesis based on rubber prices, whether it is one where the insurgency is funded by rubber barons who will gain political power in the case the areas under their control achieves autonomy, or one where increased discontent due to low rubber prices lead disenchanted youths to a path of violence. Either way, this can be settled with some data.

Data related to the number of incidents per month at the Deep South Watch Incidents Database and Rubber prices at indexmundi. I have made the table Southern violence incidents vs rubber price available for those who are curious. The first thing I did was create a graph to see if there’s any sensible correlation between the two or not.

Southern violence incidents vs rubber priceVisually, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation, but one way to know for sure if we find the Pearson coefficient of the data. This can easily be done in OpenOffice by the correlation() function. If there’s a correlation between the two series of data, then the coefficient will return the value of 1, if there’s a strong negative correlation (1,2,3 vs 3,2,1) then the function will return -1 in the case of this data, it returned 0.18 thus implying that there is no correlation between rubber prices and the number of violent incidents in Thailand’s deep south.


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