The peace process to solve the conflict in the southernmost provinces of Thailand, known as Patani, which was officially inaugurated officially on 28 February 2013, has never been smooth. The process is susceptible to any significant political change, and a small hitch may cause a long stagnation. The visit of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, to Thailand during 24 and 25 October 2018, seems to have signalled a promising restart. The conflict was allegedly top of the agenda in his meeting with the Thai Prime Minister.
At the end of February 2018 there were reports from the mainstream media in Thailand about the detailed plan for the safety zone and the safe house which would be located in the vast precinct of the Pattani Provincial Islamic Council . These reports were based on sources from the Thai negotiation team, such as Gen Aksara Kerdphol, the head of the Thai delegation, and Maj Gen Sitthi Trakulwong, the secretary of the dialogue team.
Hara Shintaro compares 2 anti-social organisations: the Japanese yakuza and the Muslim Malay insurgents in Thailand's Deep South.
Before the intensification of Southern Thailand’s long-running insurgency in the early 2000s, the region, (known as Patani) lacked a developed art scene, and the conflict which erupted in 2004 seemed to have devastated artistic creation among the local population. However, in the middle of the endless armed conflict, a new generation of artists has emerged in the region, struggling to seek out their identity/the region’s real identity through the creation of artwork.
Since ISIS has made headlines in international media, many analysts have linked the insurgency of Thailand’s three southernmost provinces to the transnational jihadist groups. Hara Shintaro, an expert on the Deep South conflict, argued that the struggle was more distinguishably nationalistic since it was led by the local elites and was strongly influenced by the atmosphere of post-World War II decolonisation.
The peace process is an item on the national agenda. Protecting human rights is also an item on the national agenda. Their similarity is that neither shows any progress.
With the north and Isan (northeast), the three southernmost provinces (Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat) are where the majority of the people rejected the draft constitution in the referendum held on 7 August 2016. It also must be noted that in 5 districts in the region, a majority of voters failed to cast a ballot (Khok Pho District in Pattani, Mueang and Betong districts in Yala, and Su-ngai Kolok and Sukhirin districts in Narathiwat).
The second round of the peace process in Patani seems to be following the first round’s suit: ending up in a stalemate. However, even an abortive attempt for a peace process is not at all useless, and is able to create a considerable impact on the political public sphere in the conflict area.
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.
The liberation movement engaged in armed struggle for the independence of the three southernmost provinces has always cited Thailand’s assimilation policy and its discrimination against the use of local Malay language as one of the main reasons of the armed struggle. The policy of language discrimination in Thailand dates back at least 80 years ago. These decreed that Thai nationals, whatever their ethnicity, must speak Thai, learn Thai in school. This greatly affected people in the Deep South whose first language is Malay.Due to this uncompromising assimilation policy, the state of Malay in Patani has become very weak and marginalized. Hara Shintaro, an expert in Malay and and fierce critic of Deep South politics discusses how the language, Malay identity and violent conflict are intertwined