Patani: The prospect of peace in a forgotten conflict
Updated: Feb 10
*Reposting from The Malaysian Reserve
SUBNATIONAL warfare has afflicted Thailand’s southernmost regions, sometimes known as the Deep South, for more than a century.
According to the Heidelberg Conflict Barometer, the conflict began in 1902, making it Asia’s oldest active contemporary conflict. While the conflict has been low-intensity for most of the last century, it has dramatically increased in the last nine years.
On Jan 26, 2022, Bait Al-Amanah and People’s College collaborated to host a webinar on the violence in Southern Thailand to raise awareness and discuss possible solutions.
In the panel discussion, consisting of representatives from Barisan Revolusi Nasional, Patani Islamic Liberation Front, Mara Patani and Patani United Liberation Organisation, it was agreed that the key strategy is by undertaking peace discussions at a negotiation table with relevant stakeholders.
This will help to promote discourse between the parties involved and allow the conflict-affected state together with the Thai government to emerge from protracted cycles of conflict. When asked about the main obstacle in achieving a peaceful solution, representatives of insurgent groups opined that there is a lack of political will to negotiate peace prospects and solve the political conflict.
Due to the long-term conflict, the political landscape in Patani has become unstable. This has severely impacted any attempt to negotiate a working solution to end the subnational conflict. The insurgent leaders and fighters pointed out that any prospect of negotiating peace must be done with the interest of the citizens at heart.
In addition, they urged that the unstable political landscape coupled with the economic downturn, lack of rule of law and poor quality education must be taken into consideration when initiating peace talks with key stakeholders.
As a result, progressing along the war-to-peace spectrum involves the adaptation (or creation) of institutions capable of altering the dynamics that fuel violent conflict. Transforming institutions involves the creation or reform of processes, rules or practises that manage violence and contestation, particularly around security, justice and economic activity.
The role of international organisations was also discussed where some of the challenges include the lack of attention given to the conflict in the Deep South. While international organisations are limited in their ability to influence the war- to-peace transition, they can play a key role in supporting and encouraging the reforms that are required to progress towards durable peace.
No doubt, Malaysia being a neighbouring country to the Deep South can play an important role by supporting programs that will be necessary as the peace process advances.
The Malaysian government can carry out dialogue forums, or organise regional or national awareness-raising campaigns.
Besides that, the Malaysian government can actively monitor shifts in the conflict and tensions that may arise by supporting ongoing monitoring initiatives and commissioning periodic research.
With that, Bait Al-Amanah and People’s College urged key stakeholders to call for immediate peace talks to negotiate the prospect of peace for the citizens of the Deep South.
Simraatraj Kaur Dhillon is a research and advocacy analyst at Bait Al-Amanah.