Exclusive: Key insurgent clarifies demands, stance on Thailand’s Deep South

 
The struggle for freedom and independence of the Muslim Malay in Thailand’s three southernmost province and four districts, namely Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla, has been incessant for a century since the annexation of Patani to Siam in 1902, The annexation, or “colonization” as the insurgents call it, was followed by Bangkok’s forced assimilation policy, which led to discrimination, suppression of local identity, and the enforced disappearances of local leaders. As the insurgency was dying down during the 1990s, the latest round of violence erupted in 2004, followed by serious human rights violations committed by the Thai state.  In the past 11 years, there have been over 14,700 violent incidents and more than 6,300 killngs, according to Deep South Watch. There are on average 3.6 incidents per day, in the form of car bombs, road-side bombs, and drive-by shootings from motorcycles, among others. The movement, composed of various groups, has never come out to claim responsibility for attacks nor announce its demands. The insurgent leaders barely come into view and the movement remains faceless to most of the locals and the public.
 
Abu Hafez Al-Hakim
 
The Thai state has responded to the violence by investing about 206 billion baht or 5.9 billion USD from 2004-2014 to solve the conflict. Hundreds of checkpoints have been set up, whether on main or local roads. Sometimes one can encounter two checkpoints less than 100 metres apart.   
 
Several talks between Bangkok and the insurgent groups have been held behind closed doors. Critics say Bangkok has never been sincere towards the insurgents, and saw the meetings as a way to identify key movement members. However, the first ever public talks were held during the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013 in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia as facilitator. The representative of the movement is Hassan Taib, leader of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the leading insurgent group which has control over most of the on-ground fighters. Unfortunately, after the BRN announced its five-point proposal, the talks were interrupted by the anti-government protests in Bangkok, followed by the coup on 22 May 2014. 
 
Under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader, the peace talks idea is on the table again. The insurgent groups, composed of BRN, Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), Barisan Islam Pembehbasan Patani (BIPP), and Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP), founded an umbrella organization called the Majlis Syura Patani (MARA Patani) to represent the movement in the talks. Two unofficial meetings have been held in Malaysia. MARA has revealed important demands as a prerequisite before the real peace talks can continue.    
 
Prachatai’s Thaweeporn Kummetha interviewed Kamaludin Hanapi, better known as Abu Hafez Al-Hakim, a key member of BIPP and one of the MARA representatives at the discussion table with the Bangkok authorities, in Malaysia. 
 
Abu Hafez, 60, was born and grew up in Pattani. He later moved to Bangkok to study at the Islamic College of Thailand when he joined the popular uprising in 1973. He was admitted to Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, but later resigned because he received a scholarship to study medicine in Egypt. After graduation, Abu Hafez came back to Thailand but failed to get a hospital job because his degree from Egypt was not recognized. He then moved to practise medicine in Malaysia and has lived there since. 
 

You can track the following questions on the video to at the times given.

  1. How does the movement see the violence in the past 11 years? (0.29)

  2. What do you think about the human rights violations and crimes committed by the Thai state? What are your concerns about that? (1.30)

  3. Civil society groups have called for the movement to refrain from attacks on soft targets, namely civilians. Has the movement heeded these demands? (4.30)

  4. Duncan McCargo, an English academic, has termed the structure of the insurgency movement as a liminal lattice or "a network without a core”. What do you think about his analysis? (7.30)

  5. Why have the movements never come out to claim responsibility for each attack? (11.25)

  6. In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake of the Thai state toward people in Patani? (12.10)

  7. What is the movement's strategy in gaining support from the local people? (16.00)

  8. Do you find the demand for merdika, or independence, still relevant? (18.41)

  9. Has the movement done its best to listen to local people’s demands? (20.00)       

  10. The Deep South student movement ‘PerMAS’, which has been very active lately has been accused of being a wing of the movement? Is that true? (21.37)

  11. What is MARA Patani? What is its status? What organizations does it represent?  (24.20)   

  12. What are your demands? Are they different from the five-point proposal made during Yingluck government? (25.50)

  13. Does the movement consider the Thai junta as a legitimate representative of the Thai state since they came to power illegally? (32.29)

  14. How many talks have taken place since the coup? What has been discussed? How has it gone so far? (34.54)

  15. If Patani becomes an autonomous or independent state, will Islamic law be implemented? (40.40)

  16. The Deep South has been home of people with Chinese and Thai ancestry for generations. What is the movement’s stance toward cultural and ethnic diversity? (43.33)

  17. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is very conservative on national-level policies. What do you think about his style in tackling the problem of the Deep South? (44.12)

  18. What do you think and feel about Thai national politics?  (48.25)

  19. What do you think about the Thai mainstream media’s coverage of the Deep South conflict? (50.18)

Muhammad Dueramae from Deep South Journalism School contributed to this report. 

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