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.
Normally, I write about issues that are full of substance and importance. This, too, is one of those times, but I will speak in a more casual manner about no other issue than Patani. As we drink morning coffee or take afternoon tea, let’s think about the meanings of what I’m presenting here, that is, the following 7, 5, 3, and 1 points, shall we?
Let’s go back and think about the events that transpired 60 years ago, when Tuan Haji Sulong fought for his religion and ethnicity, and presented seven demands to the Siamese government.
It’s probably unnecessary to detail here what those seven demands were, since they have been distributed widely and are well-known in society.
In the end, we all know that he was declared an insurgent, jailed, and later murdered and buried without a gravestone.
The worldview of Siamese imperialists at that time was extremely narrow, with their prejudices and ultranationalism. They viewed the seven demands as a danger to the nation’s integrity, and stuck to ideals of Siamese nationalism and maintaining a single nation.
Even though those seven demands did not even include the words “merdeka” or “separatism,” finally everything ended tragically.
Tuan Haji Sulong and his group called for rights and justice with nonviolent means. Although there was no use of violence or any illegal methods, in the end they were still murdered or forced into exile.
And when movements calling for rights using peaceful, democratic means failed, Malays then started to form militant, armed liberation organizations, which have lasted until today.
Thus was the start of an armed political conflict, which has never been accepted or acknowledged by Siam.
Today, almost all of the demands are being processed by the state. If the government had already complied to these demands back in the day, then Tuan Haji Sulong would not have been killed, armed militant organizations would not have been formed, and the kind of violence that we are seeing today would not have begun.
Three years ago, there was a general consensus regarding the well-known peace talks on 28 February 2013.
It was the first official peace process dialogue between the Thai state and Patani liberation movement.
At that time, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) had presented five preliminary demands so that the peace process dialogue could continue to move forward. These preliminary demands were not part of the main demands.
Regrettably, the aforementioned peace process dialogue was not sustainable, due to well-known reasons. Although the Thai state said that they would consider the five basic demands, but the unstable political situation led to a coup d’etat that halted the peace process.
The peace process started to move along again with the junta and the insurgency movement’s umbrella organization that combined six organizations under one name: the Shura Council, or MARA Patani.
Since the main actors in both parties had been changed: a junta government on the Thai state’s party, and MARA Patani on the insurgency movement’s side, new conditions had to be accepted by both parties before the peace process could officially begin again.
Therefore, MARA Patani presented three proposals:
MARA Patani had to be acknowledged as Party B.
The peace process issue had to be put at a level of national importance, and
Legal immunity for MARA members
It should be noted that these were proposals and not demands. The motivations for presenting these proposals has already been debated to a certain extent.
Still, there has been much critique on the fact that there are only three proposals, saying that in Haji Sulong’s time there were seven demands, and five by the BRN.
Others have criticized MARA Patani’s proposals for aiming to benefit only themselves and not the citizens.
MARA Patani then reemphasized that these three points were only proposals for a preliminary stage for the peace process to officially begin, not demands.
As of now, the peace process is still in the stage of building trust between the parties, and is too soon to present demands which may affect the entire peace process, which has happened before.
When the official peace process starts, then the entire process will have more stability and credibility. The roadmap will become clearer, bringing the peace process to the next level, which is the discussion and negotiation stage. This stage must happen simultaneously with ceasefire.
Yes, solving this drawn-out conflict must go through a period of simultaneous ceasefire and negotiation.
Therefore, during this negotiation stage, MARA Patani will present their demands.
MARA Patani’s demands will not number seven, five, or three.
MARA Patani is expected to have only one demand.
And what is that one demand?
Let us wait and see what that one demand is...
And while we wait, let us sip coffee or tea.
The article was originally written in Malay and published on 3 March. The article was translated into Thai by Abdullah Wanahmad for Deep South Watch, and translated into English by Asaree Thaitrakulpanich for Prachatai.
About the author: Abu Hafez Al-Hakim is a delegate of MARA Patani, and key member of Barisan Islam Pembehbasan Patani (BIPP).