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0 Mara Patani : A New Hope of Peace?

In a historic press  conference, the representatives of  MARA PATANI( Majlis Syura Patani -Patani  consultative council)spoke toThai reporters at the Premiera Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on  August 27, 2015 to lay out their aims and expectations after wrapping up talks there with negotiators from Thailand’s military government.
The Mara Patani is a new umbrella group of six freedom movements, consisting of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), three factions of the Patani Liberation Organisation (Pulo), the Gerakan Mujahidee (GMIP) and Barisan Islam Pembebasan Patani (BIPP)
“We formed Mara Patani to make our struggle a peaceful one,” said Awang Jabal, chairman of Mara Patani, an umbrella organization. “The use of violence and weapons has to go through steps to end violence from both sides. It depends on mutual understanding and trust.”
The Mara Patani delegation was comprised of representatives from the six groups which have been struggling for the secession of Thailand’s three southern border provinces for the past decade. Awang Jabat  representing the BRN and the head of Mara Patani , said he invited Thai media so they could “understand the true ways of Mara Patani, which are transparent matters,” and to help support a dialogue to bring peace to the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat
Sukree, a representative e of BRN said Mara Patani submitted three preliminary proposals as a condition for peace. Firstly, the Thai government must place the negotiations on the national agenda, which would bring them to the parliament, thus ensuring changes in Thailand’s government would not disrupt the process, as happened the last time talks were brokered. They also asked for recognition of Mara Patani as the legitimate negotiating party and legal immunity for its negotiating leaders.
An array of shadowy militant groups are currently battling to separate the provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala from Bangkok’s rule. The Muslim-majority region, known as the Deep South, was an independent Islamic nation called Patani before it was annexed by Siam in the early 20th century. Nearly  6,500 people have died since the latest wave of secessionist violence broke out in January 2004, according to data compiled officially by rights groups.
In 2013 the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra set up a dialogue with the BRN. However, the discussion was never declared a national agenda – as demanded by BRN at the time – and the two parties failed to reach any substantial conclusion. Issues about autonomy and possible independence of Patani were hardly discussed. Further dialogue was quitted  when anti-government protests broke out in Bangkok in November 2013. The military later seized power from in a coup d’etat in May 2014.
The military junta later expressed its willingness to restart talks and on Tuesday dispatched a team of negotiators to the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
Speaking in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, Mr Awang stressed the umbrella group's main purpose was to "ensure the rights and interests of the people of Patani are heard, considered, discussed and fought for, consistently, systematically and concretely, it's about self-determination, not secession or separation," said Mr Awang. 
Meanwhile, Thailand Prime Minister's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said he believes the peace discussion by the joint working group has made significant progress. 

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0 A Thai House Divided


A rift is growing within Thailand’s military-royalist establishment, threatening the country’s stability and undermining prospects that the upcoming royal succession will unfold smoothly.
On one side is an old guard of senior officers who gradually consolidated power during the long reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. On the other is a new guard from a semi-autonomous elite military unit at the service of Queen Sirikit, which includes the leaders of last year’s coup against the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the current prime minister, is a former commander of the 21st Infantry regiment, better known as the Queen’s Guard. Founded in 1950 to fight in the Korean War, it was later assigned to protect Sirikit. After rising to eminence within the regiment, in recent years General Prayuth has sought to increase his political power, and now is challenging other military-royalist factions.
The army has been an indispensable actor in Thai politics for decades, thanks largely to its close connection with the monarchy. Together the military and the royal family have worked to keep civilian governments weak in order to maintain more power themselves. During the Cold War, they joined forces to ward off Communist influence. Their alliance was reinforced in the 1980s, after King Bhumibol appointed Prem Tinsulanonda, a general, to be prime minister. With that nomination, Mr. Prem became the head of what the political scientist Duncan McCargo has called the “network monarchy”: a political consortium of pro-monarchy groups that includes the military, conservative royalists, senior bureaucrats and big business.
Mr. Prem stepped down in 1988, largely because of infighting within his government, but he remained influential behind the scenes. Notably, he is said to have advised Bhumibol during the turbulent period of 1991-92. After Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon, a member of the junta then in power, reneged on a promise not to become prime minister, there were pro-democracy protests, and then the military killed some demonstrators. Bhumibol stepped in, calling for a truce while keeping his distance from the army, and earning a reputation as a stabilizing force and for being neutral. In 1998 Bhumibol appointed Mr. Prem to preside over the Privy Council, an advisory body that protects the monarchy’s interests and propagates its views. By that time, non-elected institutions like the Privy Council and the courts were exerting more and more influence in Thai politics.
The power of Mr. Prem and his supporters in the network monarchy continued to grow until 2001. That year, the telecommunications tycoonThaksin Shinawatra won the election by a landslide, thanks to a populist platform vowing to reduce rural poverty. Tensions between elected and non-elected institutions became an open conflict, as Mr. Thaksin threatened to recast the political landscape and challenge the domination of the monarchy and the military. He was ousted in 2006 in a coup widely believed to have been masterminded by Mr. Prem. (He has denied this.)
Thaksin was not the only loser, however. Soon the Prem faction found itself weakened by the emergence of an anti-coup movement, the so-called red-shirts, as well as anti-monarchist sentiment, which was growing as Bhumibol’s health deteriorated. Queen Sirikit, meanwhile, was becoming more politically active, partly to compensate for Bhumibol’s fading authority.
Sirikit’s position has been reinforced in recent years with the promotion of men from the Queen’s Guard to key positions in the army. General Prayuth was deputy army chief in May 2010 when the army cracked down on red-shirt protesters in Bangkok’s business district; a few months later, he became army chief. Most leaders of the 2014 coup are members of the Queen’s Guard.
Although Sirikit suffered a severe stroke in 2012, her loyalists remain powerful, and now seem ready to influence the royal succession. The Prayuth government apparently supports Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, whom Bhumibol designated as his heir apparent in 1972. Vajiralongkorn, for his part, seems to have endorsed General Prayuth’s coup — by, for example, presiding over the inaugural session of the National Legislative Assembly in August 2014.
But the old guard within the network monarchy finds Vajiralongkorn lacking in gravitas. According to a 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, Mr. Prem, the Privy Councilor Siddhi Savetsila and former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun expressed misgivings to the U.S. ambassador to Thailand about the prince becoming king. A note by the ambassador says Mr. Siddhi and Mr. Anand “implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made.” Mr. Siddhi suggested that Vajiralongkorn’s sister Princess Sirindhorn, who is well liked by the public, be made heir apparent instead.
Conservative royalists have also become increasingly critical of the military government. Mr. Prem told the media in January, “this country does not belong to Prayuth.” Mr. Anand recently declared in public that General Prayuth should “not to extend his rule too long.” Rumors of a countercoup are growing louder in Bangkok.
General Prayuth has responded by placing more members of the Queen’s Guard in major positions: His brother General Preecha is rumored to become the next army chief. General Prayuth has reportedly been orchestrating this promotion without consulting the Privy Council, even though it traditionally has had a say in important military appointments.
But Mr. Prem is not yet out of the picture. When Bhumibol passes, it will be up to the Privy Council to formally recommend the heir apparent to Parliament for approval and then appointment to the throne. At that point it could nominate Sirindhorn instead of Vajiralongkorn. Even if it did endorse the prince, simply delaying that decision by a day would do great damage to his legitimacy as king.
Fragmentation within the military-royalist complex is complicating the upcoming royal succession in Thailand. With the factions of General Prayuth and Mr. Prem apparently favoring different candidates to the throne, the two men’s struggle could translate into power plays within the government, the army and the palace itself. And should the camp of the Queen’s Guard prevail and Vajiralongkorn accede to the throne, both the military and the monarchy would become even more politicized — and Thailand even less democratic.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
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0 UNHCR shocked over Thailand's deportation of some 100 persons of Turkic origin

UNHCR - Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
09/07/2015 | Press release

distributed by noodls on 09/07/2015 08:15

Press Releases, 9 July 2015

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is alarmed at today's deportation of some 100 persons of Turkic origin by Thailand. It is believed that they were taken to China on two flights early on Thursday morning (July 10), despite having indicated that they did not wish to be deported to China. The group may have included women and children.
UNHCR has been aware of these cases for several months, and made numerous interventions on their behalf to the Royal Thai Government. In response, the agency was given assurances that the matter would be handled in accordance with international legal standards, and that the group would continue to receive protection.
A third country solution was identified and a group of 172 women and children benefitted from this solution last week.
"While we are seeking further clarifications on what happened exactly, we are shocked by this deportation of some 100 people and consider it a flagrant violation of international law," said Volker Türk, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, who is currently in the region.
"I strongly urge the Thai authorities to investigate this matter and appeal to Thailand to honor its fundamental international obligations, notably the principle of non-refoulement, and to refrain from such deportations in the future," he added.
UNHCR urges the Royal Thai Government in the strongest possible terms to allow those remaining to depart voluntarily and as soon as possible to a country of their choice which is willing to receive them.
- See more at: http://www.noodls.com/view/5FD011D675F06682D34E8E13608DEA1482830885?

US condemns Thailand for Uighur deportation Washington (AFP) - The United States condemned Thailand on Thursday for its deportation of 100 ethnic Uighurs to China and warned they could face "harsh treatment," as the international incident inflames diplomatic tensions.The US "expressed our grave disappointment to Thailand," State Department spokesman John Kirby said."We condemn Thailand's forced deportation on July 9 of over 100 ethnic Uighurs to China, where they could face harsh treatment and a lack of due process," the department said in a statement. The fate of a group of Uighurs in Thailand had been in doubt after Thailand sentenced them for illegal entry to the country in 2014.Thailand announced the deportation Thursday of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China's northwest who speak Turkic and have often opposed Chinese control.It was also revealed that some of the group had been sent to Turkey in June. Anti-Chinese protesters stormed the Thai consulate in Istanbul in protest of the controversial deportation, the latest demonstration in the country over China's treatment of Uighurs. Human rights groups say Uighurs who flee China face possible torture and other abuses if returned. There are around 10 million Uighurs in China's northwest Xinjiang region and many say they face cultural and religious repression. "This action runs counter to Thailand’s international obligations as  well as its long-standing practice of providing safe haven to vulnerable persons," the State Department said in the statement, urging the country to halt further deportations.Aid organizations should have "unfettered" access to the Uighurs and Thailand should respect its international obligations not to expel refugees, the US said. "We urge Thailand to allow those remaining ethnic Uighurs to depart voluntarily to a country of their choice."

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0 Car Bomb in Samui Island: The expand of Operation Out Side Patani Land!

Police said on Saturday (Apr 11) that  car bomb on a  resort Island of Samui(Thailand) has wounded seven people, including  one Italian girl, The bomb placed  inside a Mazda pick-up truck with false plates, was detonated remotely by mobile phone late on Friday( 22.30pm) in the underground car park of the Central Festival mall.
Police said the car had been stolen on Mar 31, 2015 from Yaha district, Yala province, one of Thailand's three southernmost Muslim-majority provinces that have been scorched by a  more than 10  years  armed struggle in which more than 6,500 people have been killed and ten of thousand injured.
Thai national police spokesman Lieutenant General Prawut Thavornsiri said that It's a car bomb but we cannot confirm what type of explosive materials they used, the bomb was hidden in Mazda pick-up truck stolen from Yala province  without specifying whether the blast was believed to be linked to the conflict hundreds of kilometres away further south but the bomb could negatively impact tourists destination. 
Colonel Banphot Phunphien, spokesman for the military's Internal Security Operation Command said that there had been no confirmation  to suggest the rebels were planning to expand their sphere of operations but  it's possible that insurgents with bomb-making skills were hired to make an attack. The government has blamed anti-coup groups for a series of small bomb attacks in Bangkok this year, using them to justify the imposition of martial law and the arrest of political  leaders and activists. Government critics have suggested that some of the bombings may have been carried out by the military government to justify its continued suppression of basic rights and liberties but the government denies such allegation.
Experts say that if any link to the unrest in the south is established, it would be an unexpected development. because the insurgents, who are seeking independence of Patani state, have not launched an attacks in Thailand's better-known tourist areas outside of the south but  the blasts have occasionally struck Hat Yai, the main commercial city in the southern part of the country. Recently the Thai military government says it is trying to reboot peace talks with  Patani Muslim liberation groups  but yet no date for the talks has been announced.
Meanwhile Bomb squad experts(EOD)  said  that the same kind of bombs had been placed in district of Haat Yai, district of Sadao, Songkhla province( 2013) and in Phuket province(2013) believed  that    operated  by Patani Independence fighters. 
On April 14, 2015 Major General Kongcheep Tantrawanich,  speaker of Defence ministry concluded that the aim of this blast is 1) political interest  2)  business interest and 3) the expand of sphere of influence of Patani or southern conflicts while  the experts believed that after the blast the junta likely to claim legitimacy to operate section 44 dictator law all over the country despite harsh criticism.

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0 Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 : The End of Patani Kingdom as a Sovereign state

Patani 1837
Present day Patani 
The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 or Bangkok Treaty of 1909 was a treaty between the United Kingdom
 and Thailand signed on March 10, 1909, in Bangkok  .[1] Ratification were exchanged in London on July 9, 1909.[2]
The agreement, in which the Malay people   were not represented, effectively dissected the northern Malaystates into two parts. The area around modern Pattani (Malay Patani), Narathiwat(Malay Menara),Songkhla(MalaySinggora),  Satun (Malay:Setul ) andYala (Malay: Jala) remained under Thaicontrol,while Thailand relinquished its claims to sovereignty over  Kedah (Thai: ไทรบุรี(Saiburi)),Kelantan(Thai:กลันตัน(Kalantan)), Perlis(Thai: ปะลิส(Palit)) and Terengganu(Thai: ตรังกานู (Trangkanu))which integrated the British sphere of influence’ s protectorates. These four states, along with Johor , later  became known as the Unfederated Malay States
Originally Satun and Perlis were part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah  but only Satun remained withThailand. Patani, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Yala were historically ruled by the Malay Sultanate of Patani.The British logic for sanctioning the continued Thai occupation of the remaining northern half of the Malaya was the perceived value of Thailand as a friendly buffer against the French in Indochina.  Both signatories of the 1909 treaty had previously agreed to the Burney Treaty in 1826. The BurneyTreaty stated that Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu were Thai provinces while Penang and Province Wellesley belonged to the British while Thailand would not interfere with British trade in Kelantan and Terengganu.This agreement has had a long lasting effect on both Thailand and the Federation of  MalaysiaThe border   between them was mainly drawn by this treaty.
The incremental tide of discontent generated by the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 may have, in part laid the foundations for the South Thailand insurgency in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat from 2004 to the present.
1. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of the Geographer,"International Boundary Study: Malaysia - Thailand Boundary," No. 57  15 November 1965.
2. Great Britain,Treaty Series, No. 19 (1909)

Malay lands affirmed as Siamese territory by Great Britain in the 1909  Anglo-Siamese Treaty:-1) The four Monthon Pattani districts of Patani, Jala (Siamised as Yala), Teluban (Saiburi) andMenara (Narathiwat);2) The old Patani districts of Tiba (Thepha) and Cenak (Chana) in Monthon Nakhon SiThammarat (old Ligor);3) The Kelantan district of Tabal (Takbai) and slivers of Kelantan territory on the northwest
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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0 11th Year Statistic of Sothern Unrest (Patani Conflicts)

Translated from สถิติในวาระ 11 ปีไฟใต้  By Isra News Team  03 Jan 2015  isranews.org.

The latest  violence  in the southern border provinces of Thailand reached  its 11 years old
Isra NEWs team has collected  difference statistics related to  southern unrest (Patani Conflicts) such as  quantity of incidences, security cases, up and   down of   red  village, the stolen weapons  and follow up, the practice of justice  and the budget which already up to 2.3 hundred million Thai Baht.

1.Every kind of  Incidences
 2004 -1,154 times
 2005 -2,078 times
2006 -1,934 times
2007 -2,475  times
2008  -1,370 times
2009  -1,348 times
2010  -1,165  times
2011  -1085   times
2012  -1,465 times
2013  -1,823 times
2014  -1,072 times
Total 16,969 times
2. Security Incidences
 2004-601 times

 2005-1,006 times 
 2006-1,249 times
 2007-1,669 times
 2008-769   times
 2009- 757   times
 2010-652    times 
2011-680    times
 2012-542    times
 2013-614    times
 2014 -461   time
 Total  9,000 times
 3. Categorizing Incidences
  Shooting   8,027 times
  Bombing   3,022  times
  Arson        1,647 times
  Brutal  Killing  102 times
  Weapon Grabbing  172 times
  Attack  339 times
  Demonstration  65 times
  Disturbances  3,315  times
  Encounter  258   times
  Others  22 times
  Total  16,969 times
  4. Numbers of  Bomb Explosion
    2004 -103  times
    2005 -242 times
    2006- 344 times
    2007- 471  times
    2008 -250 times
    2009 -284 times
    2010 -266 times
    2011 -333  times
    2012 -276 times
    2013 -320 times
    2014- 232 times
    Total  3,121 times
   5. Casualty( Security cases)
   Dead  3,929  persons as follow:-
   People   2,610 persons(66.43%)
   Military  509 persons(12.95%)
   Police  365 persons (9.29%)
   Teacher and education personnel 138 Persons( 2.70%)
   Monks 18 persons(0.46%)
   Militant(Independence fighter)   321 persons
   Injured  9,602 persons as follow:-
   People   5,548  persons(57.78%)
   Military  2,453  persons(25.55%)
   Police  1,422  persons (14.81%)
  Teacher and education personnel 147  Persons( 1.29%)
   Monk 24 persons(0.25%)
   Militant(Independence fighter)   31 persons
   6.  Number of Weapons robbed
    Total  2,004  pieces
    Get back  751  pieces
   7. Status of village
  Red zone- origin 319  present day  136 villages
  Yellow  Zone- origin 517 present day 234 villages
  Green Zone origin- 1,160 present day 1,600 villages
  Total 1,970 villages
8. The net work of southern unrest(Independence fighter) approved
   Total   11,000 persons
    Scholar  315 persons
    core leader of command 208 persons
    RKK (commando unit) 2,314 persons
    Active member and sympathizer   6,075 persons
    Other core leaders      1,123 persons
 9. Percentage of security and criminal cases
  Criminal cases   147,049 
  Security cases    9,755  (6.63%)
 10. The out come of security case
Total  9,755 cases as follow:-
Case with identified offenders  2,264 cases
Case with no identified offenders   7,491 cases
702 security cases was sentenced     Offenders  453 persons
Sentences to conviction 272 cases(38.75%)  Offenders 453 persons
Dismissed  430 cases (61.25%)  Offenders 1,041 persons
11. Budget
      2004 -13,450    million Thai baht
      2005- 13,674    million Thai baht
      2006 -14,207    million Thai baht
      2007-17,526      million Thai baht
      2008-22,988    million Thai baht
      2009-27,547     million Thai baht
      2010-16,507      million Thai baht
      2011-19,102       million Thai baht
      2012-16,277       million Thai baht
       2013-21,124      million Thai baht
       2014-25,921     million Thai bah
      2015 -25,744.3 million Thai baht
      Total  234,067 million Thai baht

***  1 Us dollar approximately 30 Thai Baht

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0 Southern Thailand’s New Activists

The peace process slowly moves forward, while younger activists opt for Facebook over guns.
By James Bean 
Tuwaedaniya leads a protest outside the Malaysian Consulate in Southern Thailand in August
For years, Thailand has been engaged in a little-known war in its Malay-speaking southern provinces (or “Patani,” as the locals call it), the origins of which lie in the country’s sustained policy of assimilation that started with the annexation of the region by Siam in 1909. Both sides in this conflict are dug in. While statistics have not been kept throughout this century-long conflict, since 2004 – when data started being systematically collected – more than 10,000 people have been injured and nearly 6,000 killed.
It has only been this year with the commencement of formal bilateral peace talks in February that the resistance movement has been able to learn just how far the Thai government is willing to go to secure peace along its southernmost borders. There are positive signs that Bangkok is willing to discuss the full scope of the prickly issues that epitomize the resistance movement’s complaints and demands. However, one of the challenges that beset these talks is the degree to which the parties at the table are able to look beyond their own set of concerns and represent the voices and perspectives of civil society in Patani.
What has begun to emerge amidst the peace talks is a resistance movement that is gradually shifting from a purely militant-led strategy to political action led by civil society. Activists I have spoken to in Southern Thailand, who are as fluent in Thai as they are in their native Malay, like to point out that they have over 5,000 friends on Facebook and, “will not remain silent on the issues.” Contrary to the widely held assumptions about resistance indoctrination in Patani, this civilian-led movement is not emerging from unregulated Islamicboarding schools – long accused of being the breeding ground for radicalization – but from Thailand’s own public education system.
The current bilateral dialogue process is the first time that the government has formally acknowledged the armed resistance movement led by the highly secretive National Resistance Front, or BRN. Another first for these talks is the formal participation of the Malaysian government, in this case as a facilitator, which is seen by seasoned Patani-watchers as a crucial development given the historical tendency of resistance groups to use peninsular Malaysia as a safe haven from which to mount attacks and more recently seek refuge. In April, BRN for the first time publicized its preliminary demands, which included an expanded role for the Malay facilitator, the inclusion of external observers, release of political prisoners, and – perhaps most vexing of all for Bangkok – the complex question of Patani-Malay indigenous rights. Barely nine months in, this tentative peace process has already succumbed to hubris, best illustrated by an abortive ceasefire episode that collapsed within days of its announcement.
Young people inclined to political action have started to quietly question the logic of an overwhelmingly militant struggle in Southern Thailand. Pointing out the intrinsic limitations of this approach, one former member of BRN’s political wing, Aziz, recalls the early days of the conflict in 2004; “In areas where the population provided strong support, BRN carried out too many political activities and military operations…The battle intensity exhausted communities and put them at risk of retaliation from the Thai military.” Thus, instead of protecting the population, BRN shot itself in the foot by actually inviting insecurity in those areas it controlled. Aziz, a university graduate from Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok, claims that he complained internally at the time and urged BRN to adopt a more politically savvy approach. He explained that only when BRN found itself on the ropes during the last ten years did it reluctantly lift its injunction on members operating – or hiding in plain sight as it were – within local government, security services, or joining political parties .
Finally, with the peace talks afoot, it seems that BRN has rediscovered politics and negotiation. In September, at the request of the Thai delegation, the BRN-led delegation transmitted what the media has described as a 38 page report or “clarification.”  This document has elements of “bait and switch” – in this case, baiting members of the Thai delegation with a relatively straightforward set of issues, and, when they show interest, pressuring them to consider a more onerous set of “clarified” demands. Compared to the “roadmap” document prepared by the Thai delegation and widely circulated in March-April this year, BRN’s submission is by far the most detailed and thorough proposal for sequencing the current and future negotiations. A key demand is a proposed joint drawdown of forces, which has agitated the Thai military and no doubt accounted for the delay in the response from Bangkok. In late October, the Thai delegation finally responded, agreeing to further discussion of BRN’s demands, adding two agenda items of their own concerning a reduction in violence and respecting the co-existence of different religious groups in what it refers to as Southern Thailand’s “pluralistic society.”
Both despite and because of the talks, violence on the ground has intensified and BRN has shifted its focus from targeting local collaborators to assassinating security officials and representatives of the state. There are, however, signs of hope. Central among them is the emergence of civil society groups and activists who have started asking just how responsive peace talks are to local perspectives and expectations. New BOOKS with titles like Patani Merdeka (i.e. “Independent Patani”) are being published by young activists, local media is blossoming, and the boundaries for political expression in Southern Thailand are being routinely tested and expanded. Some observers claim that this rise of political activism is nothing more than the rejuvenation of BRN’s political wing. But in fact, these mostly young civil society activists are exercising freedoms that the broader Thai polity has been exploring since the most recent coup d’état in 2006.
In 2004, the war in Southern Thailand made international headlines when several thousand Patani-Malays confronted the Thai army in the seaside town of Tak Bai seeking the release of six men detained by authorities on accusations of providing weapons to insurgents. On that day protesters assembled in what the government claimed was a political action orchestrated by BRN. Kandar (not his real name), a teacher who was among the approximately 1,300 men arrested that day in Tak Bai, recalls, “On the way to the site we heard shots, but everyone thought, ‘whatever, let’s keep pushing on!’ Initially soldiers had started using tear-gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, but when I retreated to the river’s edge, a live round hit a steel railing just near me. At this point I realized that the army had switched to live ammunition.”
Not long after being shot at, Kandar and many other men were arrested and loaded onto a truck. Kandar was forced to lie down in the third row of men stacked four rows high. He estimated that the entire trip lasted over ten hours before they arrived at a military camp in the province of Pattani. During this time he described how he had to move around and allow for the men in lower rows to breathe and get the circulation going in their limbs. Upon arrival, three unconscious men were removed from the truck bed, one of them found to have severe swelling in his legs and testicles. Out of the estimated 1,300 men arrested that day, some 80 men died from asphyxiation and organ failure. But this, according to an implausible and widely derided Supreme Court reviewconcluded in August, was not due to any wrongdoing on the part of the Thai security personnel.
Tak Bai should have marked the beginning of stepped-up political action by the resistance movement, but the heavy-handed response by the Thai military was devastating. Hasan (not his real name), a field coordinator working with a community-based organization providing outreach assistance to a prominent legal aid provider, explained to me that it took nearly three years for civil society activism to muster up the courage to challenge the government after the tragic events at Tak Bai in 2004. In June 2007, a four-day strike and sit-in at the Pattani Central Mosque brought 10,000 people together to raise awareness of human rights abuses in southern Thailand. Older activists claim that this protest and the silent protests preceding it (i.e. short demonstrations by performers wearing tape over their mouths) were the result of lessons learned at Tak Bai
Tuwaedaniya, a prominent activist, decries the paucity of reliable information in southern Thailand “especially at the start of the peace talks, when we really wanted to know what was going on!”  Tuwaedaniya shot to prominence this year by spearheading a series of rallies designed to publicly confront both the government andBRN with the costs of war and the need for a “representative peace”.
Sadly, Tuwaedaniya’s notoriety also stems from a smear campaign on Facebook and through the Thai media, accusing him and others of being BRN sympathizers. This campaign started when a primary school teacher was arrested in April, accused of aiding insurgents, and detained at a camp in the province of Yala. Two grassroots organizations – a teacher’s union and Tuwaedaniya’s own activist group – organized a demonstration outside the camp that gathered around 500 protesters, mostly primary school teachers. The demonstration lasted five hours, and after protracted negotiations, the military camp authorities relented and allowed the teacher to leave the camp to address the 500-strong crowd. Along with the protest organizers she warned the camp administrators that unless she was released in seven days (the time limit for detention without charge under the martial law in force across Thailand’s southernmost provinces) a bigger demonstration would follow.
Tuwaedaniya played a significant role in this protest. After it was over, he and his colleagues became the targets of “trolls” on a Facebook page entitled “South Dark” whom some believe to hail from the same security agency as the camp authorities they confronted in Yala. The choice of means for attacking activists, in this case Facebook, was particularly significant because activists like Tuwaedaniya have been using exactly this medium, along with town-hall style meetings, to engage civil society in exploring what peace in Patani means for people who have been living with guerrilla war all their lives.
BRN’s apparent shift in strategy from revolution to negotiation has taken civil society groups by surprise. “We wanted to pressure BRN to disclose their strategy, the direction of their thinking…we had almost no information in the beginning,” explains Tuwaedaniya. “At the time BRN was putting up banners around Patani, reproducing their demands at the village-level. The Thai media were accusing us of being a division of BRN! So, we came up with ‘Talking Patani’ as a way of putting peace squarely in the public domain.”
Although under-reported, ‘Talking Patani’ has become a popular development in southern Thailand, precisely because it pre-empts the common mistake made in many peace processes that leave the “middle” out by focusing on the leaders of the opposing sides. Nearly 40 town hall events have been held in towns and trading centers across the region, with attendance ranging from 300 to 10,000 people per event. Eschewing the conventional discussion forums and protections offered by nearby university-based think tank Deep South Watch, the format of “Talking Patani” engages people living with the conflict at the community-level in exploring indigenous rights and the dynamics of the ongoing peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
According to activists working on the ground, local authorities arbitrarily charge and arrest Patani-Malay civilians thought to be giving aid and comfort to the insurgents. Tuwaedaniya feels that the “violence committed against soft targets has increased as a result of the peace talks” – he believes that the vast majority of this violence is perpetrated by Thai security forces. During the writing of this article, I was informed of the assassination of two young civil society activists in August and September.
Each of the two warring parties tends to assume that civil society groups are actually collaborating with the other side and this justifies targeting civilians. During the course of my fieldwork in October, I spoke to the families of two ex-combatants, who were part of a large group of 93 alleged “insurgents” that surrendered to the Royal Thai Army in September last year. Under this program, known as “Bring People Home,” individuals with outstanding arrest warrants or bounties for security-related crimes are induced to resume “normal” lives providing that they report to the authorities and renounce rebellion. Despite the safety assurances provided by local security actors to participants of the scheme, two of the 93 that surrendered in September 2012 were shot dead during the last two months. Family members of the victims believe that these killings were carried out by death squads supported by the Thai military, despite allegations by local Thai security forces that BRN in fact carried out the killings because the victims were “snitches.” Commenting on the killings, one of the remaining 91 returnees under the same program said, “The military is not sincere…they refuse to trust us and leave us alone.”
Ustaz Duloh (not his real name), a senior member of BRN’s religious wing, depicts the people of Patani as easily manipulated and anxious to throw their lot in with the strongest side. Senior resistance fighters like Duloh, who typically represent a less compromising stance, view the political action led by activists like Tuwaedaniya through the prism of their own participation in protest movements back in the1970s. “My friends and colleagues were killed,” he says, “I was so angry…The Thai government is cruel, they provide us no freedom to think, to express our culture… They should have caught who did it, but the government failed.”
The way old grievances calcify in people like Ustaz Duloh should be instructive for the Thai government as it considers how to deal with this new crop of bright, passionate activists who, for now at any rate, have chosen to build political strongholds for nonviolent resistance rather than pursuing armed resistance. These groups are working together to form a critical mass of support across a broad cross-section of young Patani-Malays, and calling for people to learn from regional attempts at achieving peace in places like Indonesia and the Philippines. Unlike previous generations of activists, this new generation of civil society advocates is focused on sustaining longer-term efforts to educate and mobilize communities in order to give meaning and longevity to an eventual peace process. The rise of civilian-led political action in Southern Thailand is a milestone and signal from the Facebook generation that people living in southern Thailand are determined to become stakeholders instead of distant spectators to any eventual peace process. It is yet to be seen whether the parties now at the table are prepared to listen to them and see their efforts to invigorate civil society as a constructive part of the broader process of dialogue.
James Bean is a PhD candidate with The Australian National University’s School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies. Email: beanjamesp@gmail.com
Thanks: http://thediplomat.com/2013/11/southern-thailands-new-activists/?allpages=yes
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