Different strategy needed in southern Thailand peace efforts.
By Dr. Abdul Razak Ahmad, Founding Director of Bait Al Amanah
This week’s southern Thailand peace dialogue process between the Thai government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) is a welcome effort and outcome of Malaysia’s continuous facilitating process.
The development of a joint comprehensive plan towards peace (JCPP) that acts as a road map for the peace process will hopefully be an impetus to end the conflict in the Deep South.
Nevertheless, Malaysia needs to pursue a different strategy to end the ongoing conflict. Otherwise, it will keep repeating the same path that led to slow progress for a peace process in Pattani.
First, it is important to specify the comprehensiveness of the plan for 2023-2024.
The plan must include other groups in Pattani, otherwise it will not work when the negotiation table is exclusively reserved for the BRN.
This strategy has been used for many years and looking at the result, now is the time for change towards inclusivity.
Second, as Malaysia continues to facilitate the peace process with Zulkifli Zainal Abidin at the helm, it is paramount for the new facilitator to be effective and efficient.
Without a doubt, Zulkifli’s vast experience as a former chief of the defence force is crucial for the peace process. Thus, he must spearhead the agenda for peace with a specific timeline to be achieved and executed to avoid another delay.
Third, Malaysia must establish a brain trust that supports the facilitating team in the Deep South. A brain trust composed of experts in different layers of Pattani’s discourse will provide important and sophisticated insights for the facilitating team.
Malaysia must view Pattani beyond the peace process by looking at the future of Pattani as our neighbour that will reciprocate benefits on the economy and education.
Fourth, the Malaysian-Thai governments must be able to execute their political will in ending the vicious cycle in Pattani. Without political will, the discourse on peace will be drained by red tape and unnecessary bureaucratic predicament.
Both governments must be willing to use their political willpower in ensuring the peace process will find common ground, especially towards the inclusivity of the parties involved.
Under Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership, it is time for Malaysia to expedite its strategy on Pattani. It is crucial for Malaysia to play its role to end the conflict by having a proper and efficient mechanism. To have a prolonged conflict at our border is not an option. As Thailand is our close friend, Pattani is our dear brother that must not be neglected.
*This article was published in Free Malaysia Today, on 23 February 2023.