Deep South people in favour of peace talks, but distrust security officials

A poll conducted by a think tank in Thailand’s Deep South shows that people in the restive border provinces are in favour of peace talks despite their distrust of state volunteer corps.

The latest survey on how people in the southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat view the violent conflict, social issues, justice system, and peace process between the Thai state and the Muslim insurgent groups shows that 76.9 per cent of the local population, the majority of whom are Muslims, are in favour of the ongoing peace process.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD) of Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus. 2,104 people from the three Deep South provinces and four districts of Songkhla Province participated in the survey, with 75.1 percent Muslims and 24.9 percent Buddhists. The research was conducted between 13 June and 10 July 2015.

According to the research findings, 76.9 percent of participants, when asked to rank on a score of 0-10 whether they are in favour of the ongoing peace process between the Thai state and Muslim insurgent groups, such as the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), responded with a score above 5, indicating that most are in favour of the peace process. The average score from all participants is 5.50.

The poll also revealed that 80.2 per cent of all participants are also in favour of peace talks between the government and insurgent groups. The average score on the question of peace talks is 5.71.

The poll concludes that most people think that the current peace process under the military government is more promising than that initiated under a civilian government in 2013.

In March 2013, when asked the same questions only 67.1 per cent of the participants were in favour of the peace process although the figure increased to 76.6 in June of the same year.

Despite the fact that the current peace talks under the military government are less transparent than those of the previous civilian government, 81.2 per cent of participants of the latest survey answered that they trust the Thai government in fostering peace talks and that 80.6 per cent also trust the Malaysian government in facilitating the talks.

When asked to rank the groups of people instrumental to development in the region, people cited religious leaders such as imams first and other clergy in religious committees or associations second. Local state administrators occupy third place while the current government and health personnel occupy the last two places respectively.

With regard to the groups who are instrumental to security and fostering peace in the region, religious leaders are again ranked first. However, other clergy occupy third place while the current government occupies second. Local administrators and health personnel ranked fourth and fifth and the Thai state’s volunteer corps in the region are the least trusted.   

The poll’s findings also show that 81.4 per cent of the participants are in favour of the administration of the Thai junta under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister.

According to the survey, most participants suggested that in order to achieve lasting peace, both the state and Muslim insurgent groups must avoid violent confrontations and that the judicial system in the region must be improved.

The locals urged that there should be a committee established to compensate people affected by the conflict and to investigate the facts in the prosecution of people alleged to be Muslim insurgents.