SITUATION IN THAILAND’S MUSLIM SOUTH IN 2013 AND 2014: PEACE TALKS AND MORE KILLING

SITUATION IN THAILAND’S MUSLIM SOUTH IN 2013

The violence in the Muslim south had decreased somewhat in recent years, but a burst of activity at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 suggests that the terrorists have regrouped and rearmed. And waht was perhaps the worse news is that schools, teachers and children were more in middle of the violence more than ver before, plus Muslims were being killed to almost the same degree as Buddhists.

Robert Horn wrote in Time magazine, “Successive Thai governments have tried several approaches to ending the violence, but for the most part they have relied heavily on the use of force. Even if security forces capture all those who took part in a specific battle, thousands of others are planning new attacks. “You can kill all the insurgents, but if you don’t change your nation-state construct, you will never resolve this,’’ Don Pathan, a Yala-based independent analyst told TIME. Thailand’s national power structure is highly centralized. Bangkok imposes policies for governors and security officials who are mostly Buddhist to rule over the Muslim majority. Local language, history, culture and identity are disrespected. [Source: Robert Horn, Time magazine, February 17, 2012 /+/]

“While there has been some recognition of that, those who govern Thailand are still at odds over what approach to take. The result has been inconsistent, half-hearted and ultimately ineffective policies. Conversely, the militants are highly decentralized, which presents a different set of problems. Traditional separatist groups that have been around for decades and are willing to negotiate with the government have almost no control over the younger more militant juwae, who have shown little willingness to engage in talks. While the people of the south may be tired of violence, civil-society peace movements don’t yet have the strength to make a difference. “They are not enough at this point,’’ Srisompob said. /+/

School Killing in Late 2012 and Early 2013 in the Muslim South

In December 2012, The Economist reported: “men armed with assault rifles burst into the canteen of Ban Ba Ngo school in the southern Thai province of Pattani and shot dead two teachers. The next day the teachers’ unions shut down all 1,300 state-run schools in the three provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and in four districts of neighbouring Songkhla, in protest. [Source: The Economist , January 19, 2013=]

“The two December killings came amid a concerted assault on all schools and teachers in the area. On October 31st a school caretaker and his 11-year-old son were shot dead; on November 22nd the headmistress of Ban Tha Kam Cham school was killed while driving home; a week later part of a school was burned to the ground. Children have also been wounded in bomb attacks. The Thai army, which has about 60,000 soldiers in the four provinces, all heavily armed, has been unable to stem the violence. =

Just as they were starting reopen there were more attacks. In January 2013, a teacher was shot dead in the canteen of Ban Tanyong school by insurgents in Narathiwat's Bacho district . The Bangkok Post reported: “The Educational Service Office, which oversees the district, said 21 out of 27 schools, including Ban Tanyong, closed their classroom doors following the death of Chonlathee Charoenchol, a 51-year-old Muslim teacher, who was shot in front of his colleagues and students in the school's canteen. The killers also made off with his bronze Nissan sedan. Killing a Muslim teacher is rare in the deep South. Reports said both teachers and students in the southern province have lost all morale and have no confidence in the security measures provided for them. "The Education Ministry will decide if it wants border police to fill in as teachers in the South, but the army is ready to help upon request," a government official said. [Source: Bangkok Post, January 24, 2013]

Also in January 2013, Two men riding on a motorcycle attacked a pickup truck carrying seven students to Rueso Kindergarten school in Narathiwat's Rueso district and killed the driver in full view of the horrified students The Bangkok Post reported: “The driver was named as Pannawat Tohfai, aged 38. He was hit three times, in the head and upper body, with bullets from an 11mm calibre handgun and died on the spot. Mayeeda Lameng, a 45-year-old villager who witnessed the attack, told investigators that the man riding pillion on the motorcycle opened fire at the pickup truck's driver. Mr Mayeeda said the shooting happened in full view of the seven students, who were seated in the back of the vehicle. All the children were safe, but in shock. The attack occurred a day after more than 700 teachers in the deep South took an oath not to abandon their students in the restive border region at a ceremony in Narathiwat to mark Teachers' Day. Police blamed insurgents.[Source: Bangkok Post, January 17, 2013]

Other Attacks in Early 2013 in the Muslim South

In January 2013 in “Pattani province, three employees of a tambon administration organistion (TAO) were wounded, one of them seriously, in an attack on a garbage truck and its crew in Khok Pho district. Pol Lt-Col Chamlong Suwarat, the Napradu police chief, said the incident occurred about 10am while the garbage truck operated by Makrut TAO was travelling along the Napradu-Naket road through Ban Yang Daeng in tambon Napradu, heading for a garbage dump. Two men caught up on a motorcycle and opened fire at the truck with handguns. The driver lost control and the truck rammed into a tree and into a roadside ditch. Somchok Madmalai, 48, the driver, was shot in the head and seriously wounded. Also wounded were garbage collectors Serm Poonkaew, 56, who was hit in the right shoulder, and Prapas Ounthong, 50, who was shot in the left leg. All were admitted to Khok Pho district hospital. Police blamed Islamist militants. The three wounded were also members of the Ban Yang Daeng village defence unit. [Source: Bangkok Post, January 17, 2013*]

In January 2023, in Pattani's Khok Pho district, a 78-year-old Muslim rubber grower was shot dead while taking a ritual bath. Pol Col Suchart Asawin, said police received a report of a shooting at a house in tambon Khok Pho about 7am. Officers sent to the scene found the body of Rorham Dorlor, who was shot in the head. Meenoh Mahmu, 68, the victim's wife, told police that her husband was taking a ritual bath at a pond next to their house in the early morning when it was still dark. She heard a gunshot. When she went outside the house she found her husband had been slain. Police said Rorham had regularly exhorted youths in the area not to be involved in drugs. [Source: Bangkok Post, January 17, 2013]

Thai Marines Kill 16 Militants Who Attacked Base

In February 2013, AP reported: “Marines fending off a major militant assault on their base in Thailand’s violent south killed 16 insurgents in an overnight shootout, authorities said. It was believed to be the deadliest toll the Muslim guerrillas suffered since more than 100 died in a single day nearly a decade ago. About 50 militants wearing military-like uniforms raided the marine corps base in Bacho district in Narathiwat Province late Tuesday night, Col. Pramote Promin said. The shootout ended with at least 16 militants killed and the rest fleeing, Pramote said, adding that soldiers who fended off the attack suffered no casualties. He said the marines had been tipped-off by the locals and were alerted for the assault. [Source: Sumeth Parnpetch, AP, February 13, 2013+]

“Regional army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj said in an interview on ThaiPBS channel that the army has declared a curfew for the area within 5 kilometers of the base for Wednesday night into Thursday. Sunai Phasuk, a Bangkok-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said“The insurgents were uplifted because of a surge in their successful attacks in recent weeks, so this is a significant loss on their side.” Sunai said. “From now, authorities will certainly have to be very concerned about their retaliation.” He said Narathiwat Province has been a contested area between security forces and militants. +

“A few days before, “suspected militants killed five soldiers and wounded five others in two attacks that included a car bomb blast in Yala Province that was detonated as a truck carrying six soldiers passed. The militants then opened fire on the soldiers, killing five of them, and took away the dead soldiers’ rifles, he said. There were reports of large numbers of local people attending the funerals of the militants. A week after the shootout bombs killed two people and hurt 12 others in Pattani. +

Hope Amidst the Carnage in the Muslim South?

The Economist reported: “Despite the carnage, however, glimmers of hope are emerging that the country might eventually find a way out of what has become an increasingly bloody and intractable civil war. The success last year of peace talks in Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines has spurred similar efforts in Thailand. There, as in Thailand, fighters from a Muslim-majority southern region fought a decades-long terrorist campaign against the central authorities in Manila to win their own state. The violence cost 120,000 lives. Yet last year both sides accepted a compromise, the creation of a new semi-autonomous Bangsamoro state. [Source: The Economist , January 19, 2013~]

“The Thai government has studied this agreement closely, and sent a high-profile delegation to talk to the Malaysian government, which helped broker the Mindanao deal. Malaysia should be well-placed to help out in any similar push to resolve Thailand’s problem, given its geographical and ethnic proximity to Pattani. According to one expert in conflict resolution, the Philippines process has had a cathartic effect. ~

“It is also clear that the Thai government of Yingluck Shinawatra, elected in July 2011, is now taking the insurgency seriously as a political problem as well as simply a security issue. A new policy outlined in 2012 explicitly commits the government to dialogue with those who have “different opinions and ideologies from the state”. The policy also broaches discussion about political decentralisation. Considered by many to be an obvious solution to the southern problem, it remains pretty radical stuff for a conservative establishment. ~

“The government is also trying to meet Muslims’ complaints that they are culturally marginalised in their own country. It has just started a satellite-television service in their language, Malay. Big sums are now going to Islamic schools and a university. But Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok thinks that, whereas these “below-the-radar manoeuvres are promising…the Thai establishment is not ready to move yet.” Any gestures towards decentralisation have always been anathema to the powerful army, which insists on Thailand’s unitary nature, under King Bhumibol. But the king is ill, and few have the stomach to question the territorial integrity of the state. So the trauma in the south of the country is unlikely to end just yet.” ~

Thailand, Muslim Militants Agree to Peace Talks

Peace talks were launched in February 2013 between Thailand's National Security Council (NSC) and leaders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of the oldest rebel groups operating in the south and a group representing various insurgent factions in the south but certainly not all of them.

AP reported: “Thailand's government signed a breakthrough deal with Muslim insurgents for the first time ever, agreeing to hold talks to ease nearly a decade of violence in the country's southern provinces. The agreement was announced in Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur, between Thai authorities and the militant National Revolution Front, also known by its Malay-language initials, BRN. [Source: Eileen Ng and Thanyarat Doksone, AP, February 28 2013 ///]

"God-willing, we'll do our best to solve the problem. We will tell our people to work together," Hassan Taib, a Malaysian-based senior representative of the BRN, said after a brief signing ceremony with Lt. Gen. Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary general of Thailand's National Security Council. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who met with his Thai counterpart, The first meeting were held in Malaysia in March 2013. ///

Najib described the signing as "merely the starting point of a long process" because many issues have to be resolved, but added that it was a "solid demonstration of the common resolve to find and establish an enduring peace in southern Thailand." Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said talks would be conducted "within the framework of the constitution" of Thailand to address the root causes of the unrest. "I have to say we are seeing a better direction in solving the problem, and I consider it a good start," she said after meeting with Najib. "We need to move forward as soon as possible." ///

The first round of talks will focus on how both sides can cooperate, said Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab of Malaysia's National Security Council. But the insurgency remains murky, with militants making no public pronouncements on their goals. Paradorn said Thai security forces would continue to patrol the region. "It's not unusual that there might be groups that disagree with the talks, so our military operations will continue. But the discussion will have to carry on at the same time," Paradorn told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday before leaving for Malaysia. He said fewer than 1,000 insurgents are living on the Malaysian side of the border. Most are ethnic Malays. ////

"This is a welcome development," said Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a political scientist at Prince of Songkla University in Thailand. "Not only that it is the first time the Thai government recognized the status of a separatist group, but also the process has included Malaysia as the facilitator of the talks, which will likely draw more participants in the peace process." In the past decade, Malaysia has also brokered negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines. That has so far resulted in a preliminary peace pact signed in October to grant minority Muslims in the southern Philippines broad autonomy in exchange for ending more than 40 years of violence that has killed tens of thousands of people and crippled development. Malaysia's government has repeatedly said it wants to see a peaceful resolution to its neighbors' conflicts and has denied funding, arming or providing any other support to militants. ////

Rob Corben of the German news services wrote: The idea for the peace talks grew out of contacts between former Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and Malaysian leader, Najib Razak, last year. Thaksin is the older brother of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and remains an influential figure, despite living in exile since 2008 to avoid corruption charges. [Source: Rob Corben, DW.DE, November 4, 2013]

Progress of the Peace Talks to the End the Violence in Southern Thailand

A second round of peace talks in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, brokered by Malaysia, took place in May and June 2013. The military, which has 60,000 troops stationed in southern Thailand, rejected key BRN demands. Little progress was made.

In November 2013, Rob Corben of the German news services wrote: The Muslim insurgent groups have put forth a set of demands including the withdrawal of Thai troops from the southern provinces, the release of insurgency members from prison and the participation of outside groups in the peace process, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). [Source: Rob Corben, DW.DE, November 4, 2013]

International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Matthew Wheeler says the dialogue marks a new phase in the conflict. "My sense is that things have clearly changed because of the talks." But there is also scepticism due to Thaksin's involvement in the peace negotiations: "Some of the criticism is political in nature, based on the fact that the former Thai premier was instrumental in getting support from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib in getting the process started," he told DW. The Thai military is also fearful that any outside involvement in the talks may lead to a loss of sovereignty.

The peace talks have led to a debate in Thailand over different forms of autonomy, following similar models elsewhere in South East Asia, such as in Indonesia's Aceh province. Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said there was a need to discuss "real prospects" for new forms of governance in the South. "There are several proposals already on how to decentralize the power from Bangkok. And there is no real winning strategy on the ground for the military which needs to look deep into its strategy and come up with a much better one," said Wattanaygorn.

Does the BNR Even Represent the Muslim Militants in Thailand’s Deep South

Thai deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung said in Bangkok has voiced the view of many experts who say a generational gap between older insurgents who want to negotiate and more militant younger members will complicate peace efforts. "I am not confident either that (the BRN representatives) are real core leaders," he said. Underlining the highly tentative nature of the talks, Paradorn had acknowledged that Thailand was yet to determine whether the BRN envoys actually control battle-hardened militants on the ground. [Source: Julia Zappei, AFP, March 28, 2013]

The BRN, whose Malay name means "National Revolutionary Front", is one of the larger groups held responsible by Thailand for the violence. "I'd like to be more optimistic, but I'm afraid my sense is that if these talks are going to accomplish anything, it's going to take a long time," Liow Chin Yong, an international studies professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, told Reuters. He added: "It remains to be seen whether (BRN representative) Ustaz Hassan Taib has any clout at all over those fighting on the ground."

But Thai National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said Thailand hoped BRN's involvement would trigger other groups to join future talks. "We both want to reduce violence and make peace in the south," Paradorn said. Muslim-majority Malaysia has already hosted negotiations between the Philippines and Muslim separatists in that country which resulted in a landmark agreement in October 2012 aimed at ending a decades-long insurgency there.

According to Associated Press: The Thai government and military have struggled to identify legitimate participants for the peace process, as the militant leadership is not clear and no groups have stepped out to take responsibility for the daily attacks in recent years. The insurgency is believed to be highly decentralized, with local units having the freedom to choose targets and campaigns. The BRN is one of several separatist movements that have made public calls for a separate state in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south. It is unclear how many groups of insurgents the Thai authorities intend to bring in. [Source: Eileen Ng and Thanyarat Doksone, AP, February 28 2013 ///]

Other experts argue that bringing more insurgents to the negotiating table will not be easy. "There are several groups who would like to talk to the Thai authorities, but they won't come out because the Thai government cannot guarantee their safety. What they want is amnesty, which the Thai government can't promise," said Panitan Wattanayagorn of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "The insurgents, too, will have to talk among themselves before making any decisions," he said. "So it is not clear that we will see a decline in the incidents in the near future." Other groups fighting in southern Thailand include the Pattani United Liberation Organization, which has made public calls for a separate state. ///

Dim Prospects for Peace in Southern Thailand

Daniel Wagner wrote in the Huffington Post, “ The talks have, thus far, failed to achieve their objective, as there remains a wide gap between both sides' demands. The absence of leadership or political cohesion within the insurgency raises question about which rebels are being represented in KL, and to what extent the BRN-C fully represents or can influence all entities that comprise the insurgency. Events on the ground indicate that the insurgency has entered a new phase of enhanced violence and human rights abuses that now target children. Within this context, prospects for success in KL appear dim. [Source: Daniel Wagner, Huffington Post, November 22, 2013; Daniel Wagner is CEO of Country Risk Solutions, a cross-border risk advisory firm, and author of the book "Managing Country Risk."\=\]

“The majority of rebel offensives are waged by autonomous units of Islamist fighters. While the objectives of all the insurgent groups are unclear, the establishment of a Malay-speaking Muslim state between Thailand and Malaysia is a unifying goal. If the peace talks were to conclude with a deal that offers the Malay-Muslims anything short of total independence from Thai rule, it is doubtful that most of the insurgents would agree to lay down their arms. At the same time, no one expects Bangkok to support any deal that entails the partition of the existing Thai nation-state. In this regard, both sides' demands appear fundamentally incompatible. \=\

“As the violence has continued unabated, serious doubts exist over the BRN-C's influence on the ground in southern Thailand. A younger generation of Islamist fighters are less inclined to accept an olive branch and are skeptical of any agreement with Bangkok. The exiled leader of the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) -- another separatist group -- has taken responsibility for some recent attacks, declaring that such violence will continue given that the PULO was not invited to join the BRN-C in KL. In the absence of a higher degree of confidence about the BRN-C's influence on the ground and legitimacy as the representative of the insurgents, and given the expansion of the list of "legitimate" targets by some of the insurgents to include Thai-Buddhist children in southern Thailand, the KL talks are effectively dead. \=\

A breakthrough in KL could become more realistic if the insurgents were to unite behind a single leader, as have some Islamist militants in the Arab world. However, the decentralized structure of the insurgency indicates that this is an unlikely outcome. In fact, many in the BRN-C do not even know the names of their superiors or fellow unit members. Unless the insurgents can establish themselves as a cohesive entity operating under a specific leadership with defined objectives, it will be difficult for the BRN-C leadership in KL to guarantee that the Malay insurgents will agree to any commitments made at the negotiating table. Based on this, a stalemate is the most likely near-term outcome of the KL talks. \=\

“Fortunately for Thailand, and the Thai government, the Islamist insurgents have not expanded their attacks beyond the Muslim-majority provinces of the south of the country, and have basically spared Thailand's tourism industry. The Thai government does not, therefore, view the Islamist insurgency as a grave threat to the national economy. If the conflict were to spread into the north, the dynamics at play would change, as would Bangkok's approach. As it stands now, the Thai government may calculate that a continuation of the insurgency is preferable to any major concessions that would be necessary to placate the more hardline elements of the insurgency. \=\

“By agreeing to sit down the BRN-C in Malaysia, the Thai government has for the first time given the rebels a degree of legitimacy, yet, to date, Bangkok has received no tangible benefits as a result. Compromise does not appear to be in the lexicon of some insurgent groups, who have demonstrated a commitment to derailing the peace process and pursuing their armed struggle against the Thai government. The prospects of success at the negotiating table are therefore negligible, which does not bode well for the people of the region or the Thai government in the longer term. \=\

Violence in Southern Thailand After the Peace Talks Began 2013

Amy Sawitta Lefevre of Reuters wrote: “The peace talks have done nothing to stop the killing - the number of fatalities in March was the highest since the violence flared again, according to Deep South Watch, a think tank that monitors the violence. In one day in February, suspected Muslim insurgents launched up to 50 bomb and arson attacks that killed three security force members. The following month, 16 rebels were killed by Thai security forces during an assault on a marine base. [Source:Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters, May 2, 2013]

International Crisis Group (ICG) ICG analysis shows a monthly average of 24 roadside attacks in the first half of 2013. Sunai Pasuk, a senior analyst with the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch points out that the violence in the region has continued almost unabated. "After rebel attacks, the government usually carries out raids on insurgent strongholds which, in turn, lead to retaliatory strikes by the insurgents," Sunai said. "So it becomes a 'ping pong' of violence, a very deadly game."

March 2013, Julia Zappei of AFP wrote: “Thailand held its first formal peace talks with a rebel group from its insurgency-racked south as a bombing killed three people in a stark reminder of the difficulties negotiators face. Thailand blamed the morning bombing that killed three paramilitaries on militants seeking to sabotage the peace effort. Five paramilitaries were also wounded in the roadside bombing that targeted a security patrol in the southern province of Narathiwat. "The violence this morning is related to the talks in Malaysia," Thai deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung said in Bangkok. [Source:Julia Zappei, AFP, March 28, 2013]

In May 2013, an attack blamed on Muslim insurgents killed six people, including a three-year-old boy. Reuters reported: Four gunmen on motorcycles pulled up at a store in Pattani province, just 500 metres from a military checkpoint, and opened fire. "We don't know which group instigated this but there are differing opinions in the south. We will continue with a meeting on June 13, with support from the military," he told reporters. The killings came just two days after a second round of peace talks in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, brokered by Malaysia, between Thai officials and leaders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of the oldest rebel groups operating in the south. A police officer in Pattani said the attackers sprayed the shop with bullets before going in to "finish off" their victims. "They left a note saying 'revenge for the innocent' before fleeing the scene," he told Reuters. Five of the victims were Buddhists and one Muslim. [Source: Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters, May 2, 2013]

In October 2013, Associated Press reported: Three bomb squad officers were killed while inspecting a suspicious item beside a road in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, police said. Suspected insurgents detonated an improvised bomb in a box when the squad arrived to check out a location where tires had been burned in Bacho district in Narathiwat province, police Col. Pakdee Preechachon said. A common militant tactic is to initiate a false attack then strike the security officers who respond to it. A second bomb was defused at the scene. [Source: Associated Press, October 28, 2013]

in October 2013, AFP reported: “Six people including two policemen were shot dead in a fierce gunbattle between Thai security forces and militants, authorities said on Sunday, after a raid in the insurgency-plagued south of the country. The clash broke out after a combined army, police and paramilitary group tried to search a village in Narathiwat, one of several conflict-prone provinces in the Muslim-majority region, on Saturday afternoon. “It was quite a big gunbattle which lasted a long time,” southern army spokesman Colonel Pramote Prom-In said. “The dead were on our wanted lists,” he said, adding that a further seven suspects with warrants issued for them were also arrested in the raid. [Source: AFP, October 6, 2013]

Sixteen Militants Killed in an Attack on a Thai Military Base

Robert Horn wrote in Time magazine, Maroso Chantrawadee from the village of Yuelor in the deep south of Thailand had been a survivor. He emerged alive from the back of an army truck after the 2004 Tak Bai incident, which left 78 died, and rose to become a leader of a band of armed militants, called juwae, fighting for independence. But in February 2013 Maroso and 15 of his fellow rebels were killed in a failed attempt to overrun a Thai army base. In a video his funeral uploaded on Facebook, Maroso was hailed as a martyr. He and his guerrillas were called heroes for having killed many Thai soldiers over the years. [Source: Robert Horn, Time magazine, February 17, 2013]

The firefight in which Maroso died was a rare victory for Thailand’s security forces. The army was prepared: they killed at least 16 of about 50 rebels and wounded an unknown number of others. The soldiers escaped unscathed. Days later, they were sweeping the area and had arrested four suspected attackers. The difference this time, army officials said in explaining the outcome, was that locals had tipped them off. Srisompob believes the killing of the teacher, one of many attacks on the education system in the south, played a role in that. “We are seeing a change in attitude and sympathies among some in the Muslim community. They have had enough of the violence and the killing of innocents,” he told TIME.

If the militants are indeed losing some support among Muslims, could that mean the tide is finally starting to turn in the deep south? Most observers don’t think so. The violence in southern Thailand is running too long and too complex to be solved in one firefight — or by military means. “The conflict in the south is fundamentally political,’’ says Matthew Wheeler, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Situation in the Muslim South in Thailand at the 2010s

On the state of the crisis in the Muslim south at the end of 2012, Srisompob Jitpiromsri wrote on DeepSouthWatch: “ At present, it is widely acknowledged that the violence in the deep south has entered into the protracted state, and it seems quite clear that there have been attempts to make "qualitative violence" an evident truth, i.e. the frequency and intensity of violence would remain stable, while the quality of the violence, namely the number of casualties and the image of violence would increase and become more prominent. [Source: Srisompob Jitpiromsri, DeepSouthWatch, Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD), Prince of Songkla University Pattani Campus, December 23, 2012<>]

“From 2007 until recently, the frequency of violence had decreased from the initial level. However, from early 2012 onwards, it is noticeable that the pattern of southern violence has become ever more complex and intense. Thus during these first 9 months of 2012, there have been many shocking events and the number of events in certain months became very prominent peaks, such as the incidents in March which resulted in as many as 603 casualties in that particular month alone, while in August there were as many as 380 events of unrest. It could be said that the statistics in those two months had broken the monthly records for the entire period of 9 years and 9 months, i.e. from January 2004 to September 2012. The injury and death statistics in March 2012 was the highest record since 2004, while the frequency of unrest events in August 2004 was the highest since January 2004 onwards. <>

“The prominence of the recent violence statistics reflects the higher "intensity level" of the situation in the Deep South, and could be the proof of the rise in the quality or magnitude of the violence and indicates the continuity of the inevitable state of prolonged/chronic violence in the Deep South. Although there was no fatality, the disturbance made August 2012 to be the month with more than 300 events of unrest, making it the month with the highest frequency of unrest events during the previous 9 years, from January 2004 onwards. <>

“Reason Two: The format of violence in 2012 has also become more complex and convoluting. It should also be noted that although the number of events increased and the frequently also spiked in some months, but the level of violence in general did not constantly escalate. It appears as though the expansion of violence was in a cascade-like pattern, thus the violence was not in the form of uncontrollable chaos. This reflects the existence of a certain “pulling force” or “balancing force” in the area, causing the violence to be continuous, but also with certainty and constancy. <>

Rob Corben of DW.DE wrote: “The Thai military has called on the BRN to stop the violence in a bid to put an end to the almost decade-long insurgency. But efforts to stem the bloodshed have fallen short, human rights groups criticize. Pratubjit Neelapaijit, a rights campaigner and lecturer at Mahidol University welcomes the peace process, but says claims of human rights abuses are not being properly examined. "There is no transparency in the investigation of incidents that happen in the south," Pratubjit told DW, citing the deaths of 78 Muslim men who perished after their arrest outside a courthouse in Narathiwat province in 2004. While the Thai Government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has paid compensation to the victim's families, no one has been found guilty thus far. "The culture of impunity is still present in Thai society and the judiciary has failed to build a sense of trust among Thai Buddhist and Malay Muslim communities in southern Thailand," Neelapaijit explained. The activist is the daughter of Muslim human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, who disappeared in 2004 and was presumably murdered after alleging that Thai security forces abused his clients during interrogation in jail. [Source: Rob Corben, DW.DE, November 4, 2013] Balancing Force of the Violence in the Muslim South?

Srisompob Jitpiromsri wrote on DeepSouthWatch: “What is the cause of this balancing force? The balancing force that limits the expansion of the violence could be the outcomes of three main causes: The first cause was the role of the state security force in preventing and suppressing the insurgency. The main security mechanism of the state is the military and policy forces who are deployed together with paramilitary forces, e.g. Taharn Phran (paramilitary rangers) and Aor Sor (territorial defense volunteers), numbering at a total of more than 60,000 personnel. The security forces act to respond and use legal measures against the insurgents, e.g. BRN Coordinates, and PULO, through the legal jurisdiction granted by the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code under ordinary situation, as well as the Martial Laws Act and the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in State of Emergency. The military measure used consisted of the deployment of "combined force" in the area, particularly at the field command level, with an operating team in the village, a rapid response unit and a patrol unit to receive hostile contact, conduct surround-and-search operation, and sabotage non-state armed forces. The state's forces also include armed civilian or volunteer forces numbering at more than 80,000 personnel, which consisted of the Chor Ror Bor (Village Security Team) and Aor Ror Bor (Village Security Volunteers) in more than 3,000 villages throughout the Deep South. The state's armed forces were the main actor in counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, with the total number of military, paramilitary, and civilian forces (including the military, the police, taharn phran, Aor Sor, Chor Ror Bor, and Aor Ror Bor) of approximately 150,000 personnel. [Source: Srisompob Jitpiromsri, DeepSouthWatch, Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD), Prince of Songkla University Pattani Campus, December 23, 2012 <>]

“Analysis by Deep South Watch showed that this massive security force of the state sector of 150,000 personnel was maintained to fight against the anti-state forces, i.e. BRN, PULO, and various “Juwae” factions. Military intelligence sources indicated that approximately 9,616 "Jawae" were present. Although the situation could be controlled to a certain extent, but the situation in the Deep South could be clearly observed as an armed conflict. <>

“The second cause for the force to balance the expansion of the violence was the state’s adjustment in its peace policy, found in both the government (the political branch) and the security branch of the state. A key change occurred during a high-level policy-making session in 2012, in which the National Security Council of Thailand (NSC) released a new national security policy regarding the situation in the South titled “Policy for Administration and Development of the Deep South, B.E. 2555-2557 (2012-2014 AD)”, announced in March 2012, with provision for: “Creation of an environment which facilitates dialogues to find a solution out of the conflict and provide guarantees to those involved and the stakeholders in the peace process.” <>

“In addition, the NSC also aimed to create a systematic and effective administration and development of the Deep South Provinces with integrated participation from all sectors, based on valid evidence and knowledge in providing valid and proper solutions. On the part of the 4th Region Army, the 4th Region Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) announced the policy of "Weaving Hearts for Peace," which emphasized the opportunities for those whose opinions differed from the state to have channels for expressing their viewpoints and become involved in solving the problem. The 6 strategies used by the 4th Region ISOC, i.e. the 6-stems strategy, were: 1) Making an understanding with the people; 2) Development of human resources; 3) Solving the problem of overlapping threats; 4) justice and human rights; 5) Providing safety for the people's lives and properties; and 6) The people's participation. While the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) also designated 9 strategies to support the NSC's policy, particularly the 3rd strategy to "...create a space and environment to find a peaceful exit to the conflict..." <>

Development of the State's Security and Peace Policy in the Muslim South

Srisompob Jitpiromsri wrote on DeepSouthWatch: “Development of the state's security and peace policy is a continuing evolution of the policy to manage the problem in the Deep South, which begin in 2004, starting with the enforcement of the Martial Laws Act in 2004, followed by the announcement of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in State of Emergency in 2005, the coup d’état against the Thaksin government and the use of heavy military means in surround-and-search operations and the surge in military manpower in 2007, the enactment of the Internal Security Operations Act of 2008, and the policies on administration and development of the Deep South by the National Security Council (NSC) in March 2012. The mentioned policies and measures could respond to the imminent problems during each period, yet the situation of unrest still progressed to a more chronic state in the latter phases. [Source: Srisompob Jitpiromsri, DeepSouthWatch, Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD), Prince of Songkla University Pattani Campus, December 23, 2012 <>]

“The "9-5-29" code of the operation to extinguish the southern fire with the aim of integration and establishment of the Committee to Mobilize Policy and Strategy to Solve Problems in the Southern Border Provinces Operation Center (CPS-OS) also lacks progress, particularly when the political sector had problems with the internal management of the government. The political sector could not find a proper office in-charge with adequate capacity, knowledge and experience to solve the problems in the south. A key issue here was that even though there were as many as 29 objectives to determine the power structure, policy, strategy, and joint strategic goals, but without a strong political will, the 9-5-29 code could become a zero when there was no actual mobilization. Upon military and political invasions through waves of insurgency attacks in July, August, September, and from the month of Ramadan onwards, the state appeared to be on the defensive side once again. Thus the situation had become more intensively violent and the situation has become more convoluting and enigmatic. <>

“The final cause was the problem of using the discursive language in the policy and progressive ideas by the state, in which there were limitations due to the negligence of the locals, civil societies, and grassroots level organizations who were the real "insiders" who actually understood the problem. This is the problem of incomprehensive visualization of the peace process. A real and sustainable peace could only exist from the processes of the insiders. Modification of the public administration system to be effective is difficult to undertake, and is not the real solution to the conflict. <>

Road Maps for Peace in the the Muslim South?

Srisompob Jitpiromsri wrote on DeepSouthWatch: “A key variable in solving the problem of violence for peace in the Deep South is a process stemming from the inside. The power of local civil societies should be enhanced to have the role of being the mediator and the "common space" in the peace process. What is a peace process stemming from the insiders? This is a transformation of conflict that would lead towards creation of a common space. A key component is the idea that conflict is NOT something that must be eliminated. Rather, conflict may be something of value and an inevitable necessity for social and developmental change. On the other hand, this idea also deems the use of violence as an "avoidable component" in the relationship and interactions between the conflicting parties. An important point in this transformation is the creation of a creative relationship between the actors in the conflict and the creation of necessary structures and mechanisms for creation of sustainable peace. [Source: Srisompob Jitpiromsri, DeepSouthWatch, Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD), Prince of Songkla University Pattani Campus, December 23, 2012 <>]

“The Road Map for Deep South Peace is actually being drawn under the current situation, and the peace process is currently making progress one step at a time, from little to large. The Pa(t)tani Peace Processes (PPP) is thus a creation of a complex and non-linear political space that would create conflict transformation using a diverse variety of peace-supporting structures that could change itself according to the events, with the goal of creating political discourses or paradigm to support a powerful and sustainable peace process. The first approach emphasizes on peace as the main target outcome (peace-writ-large). This process involves individuals from various sectors and factions with different final objectives. The Patani liberation movement or the insurgents aim to separate the area into a new, independent state. The Thai state aims to protect the rights, security, and sovereign power and security of the nation and maintain status quo. Local civil societies aim to decentralize the governing authority and solve the problem of conflict. The grassroots people, meanwhile, aim to demand justice and solve problems related to the economy and their own well-being. Thus peace-writ-large refers to the fact that all parties, particularly the state and the insurgents, either come to discuss and negotiate or fight each other until a decisive victory is reached, resulting in negative peace. Therefore, the peace process in this approach would consist of fighting, discussions, and negotiations with one another. An example of this approach can be found in present-day Mindanao, in which the two parties to the conflict have undergone fighting, talks, negotiations, and compromises for an extensive period of time, eventually resulting in an agreement. The government of the Philippines agreed to accept the status of the Bangsa Moro people, and a framework for peace talks was eventually achieved. <>

The second approach emphasizes on creation of small-scale peace (peace-writ-little). In this approach, small-scale areas of peace are created in different places using an incremental approach. The mentioned process would gather all parties to the conflict into a “space for relationships”. In this sense, those involved in the process may include members of the anti-state movements, the existing institutions, the military, the policy, civilians, civil society groups, and both Buddhist and Muslim Malay villagers, as well as various stakeholders. The second approach would create an agreement that relies on mutually-accepted processes and principles between all stakeholders. This type of peace process would rely on the "insiders" to create a common space to solve the problem together, one step at a time, and enhance peace through various issues: culture, religion, language, education, and peaceful co-existence, justice in everyday life and providing relief and compensation for the losses due to the unrest, etc. <>

As mentioned earlier, the peace-writ-little approach is not only an approach towards peace, but also aims to create a complex and non-linear “political space” that would create conflict transformation using a diverse variety of peace-supporting structures that could change itself according to the situation. The process would create a political discourse or paradigm to support a powerful and sustainable peace process.

A key point in the relationship between the peace-writ-large and peace-writ-little approaches is that at the end, peace-writ-little would eventually overlap with peace-writ-large and would lead towards negotiations on the big issues as shown in the first Road Map. This is what the civil societies and grassroots organizations in the area are studying and developing themselves in order to make proposals in the peace process, including the proposal for special administration, peace talks with differing groups, creation of justice, provision of relief to families who have experienced losses from the events, solving the problem of drugs and reforming security actions in the Deep South.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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