Southerners urge all parties to abstain from violence, be honest in solving conflicts

The latest research conducted by a think tank based in Thailand’s restive Deep South shows that most people in the region are in favour of peace talks. However, they urged the Thai government to be more open and the insurgent groups to abstain from violence.

At 10 am on Monday, 17 August 2015, the Centre for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD) of Prince of Songkla University, the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), and Deep South Watch (DSW), held a conference on the findings of the latest survey on how people in the southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat view the violent conflicts, social issues, justice system, and peace process between the Thai state and the Muslim insurgent groups.

According to the 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 Majlis Syura Patani (MARA Patani), the umbrella organisation of insurgent groups comprising Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), Barisan Islam Pembehbasan Patani (BIPP), and Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP), 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 research was conducted by the 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.

A conference on the Centre for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD)’s latest research about the Deep South Conflict on 17 August 2015 (courtesy of Deep South Journalism School)

Most Southerners urged that the Thai state must continue to hold peace dialogues with the insurgent groups in an honest, open, and constructive manner and that the insurgent groups should not resort to violent tactics in pushing their demands, but should struggle by peaceful ways, according to the findings.    

The poll also revealed that 80.2 per cent of all participants are 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 troops 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.

The next round of the Deep South peace talk between the Thai state and Majlis Syura Patani (MARA Patani) will begin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 25 August 2015.