Abu Hafez Al-Hakim
The Thai government and a Muslim Malay liberation organization have reached an agreement to make one district of the Deep South safe for civilians.
Abu Hafez Al-Hakim is a spokesperson of MARA-Patani, a leading insurgent movement in Muslim Malay-majority southern Thailand and is a member of MARA Patani's Dialogue Panel in the Peace Dialogue Process with the Thai government
Five months after agreeing on preconditions for peace talks, the Thai government and Deep South insurgent groups have agreed on a general framework to set up safety zones in the restive region. On 28 February 2017, Abu Hafez Al-Hakim, a delegate and key member of MARA Patani, an umbrella organization of Deep South independent movements, announced that the group and the Thai government representatives to the Deep South peace negotiations in Malaysia had reached an agreement on a framework to establish safety zones.
Thailand’s assimilation policy in the past 80 years on the Muslim Malay in Thailand’s three southern border provinces, known as Patani, has been repeatedly cited as one of the main reasons for the armed struggle, claiming almost 6500 lives already. Due to this uncompromising assimilation policy, the state of the Malay language in Patani has become very weak and marginalized. As the peace process has progressed, concerns about the linguistic rights of the local people have been raised and will be included in discussions at the dialogue table.
Prachatai talked with a key member of Thailand’s restive Deep South’s liberation movement engaging in a peace dialogue with Bangkok about the violence during Ramadan month, their strategy and the future of the peace process.
Abu Hafez Al-Hakim, a MARA Patani delegate discussed about the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the peace dialogue between Bangkok and MARA Patani, as umbreralla organization of the insurgent movements. The TOR, if endorsed, will kick start the official peace dialogue.
After expressing his frustration over the latest Deep South peace talks, the Thai junta leader warned media not to criticise the government for the stalled peace dialogue with Deep South insurgent groups.
MARA Patani, the umbrella organization of the independence movements, say the orchestrated insurgent incidents, including a siege at a public hospital, in Thailand’s Deep South does not affect the dialogue and in turn emphasizes the importance of having bilateral agreement on the ceasefire zone.
A MARA Patani delegate looks back at the struggle of Patani independence movements. As Thailand and MARA are about to a reach mutual agreement which will kick start the official peace talks, Abu Hafez Al-Hakim says MARA will only have one demand.
Note: Abu Hafez Al-Hakim is a vocal member of MARA Patani, a peace dialogue panel comprising several Muslim Malay groups which struggle for the right to self determination of people in Thailand's restive Deep South, so-called Patani. This article reflects his personal view, not the official view of MARA Patani. Watch Abu Hafez interview with Prachatai here.