Giles Ji Ungpakorn
The organisation of Muslim Malay youth or “PerMAS” in Patani have just organised a well-attended talk entitled “War and Peace. How can the people of Patani determine their own future?”
The talk was held on the campus of the University of Pattani. It follows the deaths of 16 liberation fighters on the 13th February last year and the appalling murders of 3 children on the 3rd February 2014. The children’s house was raked by indiscriminate automatic gun fire. Locals believe that it was the work of the military.
Thai government security forces in plain clothes have a long dishonourable history of carrying out cold-blooded murders of civilians who are thought to be politically active in “Patani” movement. “Patani” is the name given by locals to the whole area of the three southernmost provinces.
Speakers explained the importance of peace, security and justice for the local population. Many emphasised the need for local people to reaffirm “ownership” of Patani. The Thai state wants to force them to be “Thai Muslims” but this is not what the population desires. Some proposed that armed struggle alone would not win the right to self-determination. It should be a political struggle with mass involvement. Often those voices which just called for “peace” were not reflecting the views of the locals and so far the Thai state has remained deaf to what people are demanding in the official peace negotiations.
Only yesterday a Buddhist monk and 3 other people were shot dead by unknown assassins while the monk was collecting food from Buddhist villagers. It is most likely that this was a revenge attack in response to the shooting of the 3 children. However it is a criminally unacceptable tactic because it helps to inflame communal tensions. The war in Patani is not about Muslims fighting Buddhists. It is about the Muslim Malay people’s struggle against the Thai state.
When considering the unacceptable killing of the Buddhist monk we must realise that the Thai state has militarised Buddhist temples in the region. Monks have police special forces armed escorts and at one time the military were encouraging soldiers to become monks in the local area. In the past Muslim children were also forced take part in Buddhist ceremonies at school as part of the state’s forced assimilation programme.
The violent conflict in Patani is caused by the process of Thai nation building and the subsequent colonisation of ethnically diverse communities into a centralised state, ruled directly from Bangkok, in the late 19th century. Violent repression of the people of Patani has been a constant method in the Thais state’s policies up to the present.
On the 25th October 2004 Thai government security forces broke up a peaceful demonstration at Takbai in the southern province of Naratiwat. There were villagers of all ages and sexes in the crowd. After this, the troops moved in to capture young Muslim Malay men. While women and children huddled in one corner, the men were stripped to the waist and their hands were tied behind their backs. The prisoners were made to crawl along the ground while troops rained kicks down upon their heads and bodies and beat them with sticks. Many of the prisoners were roped together in a long line and made to lie face down on the ground. Finally the bound prisoners were thrown into the backs of open-top army lorries, and made to lie, layer upon layer, on top of each other. Troops stood on top of their human cargo occasionally stamping on those who cried out for water or air and telling them that soon they would “know what real hell was like”. Many hours later when the last lorry arrived at Inkayut Army Camp, nearly 80 prisoners had died. Prime Minister Taksin’s first response to the incident was to praise the security forces for their “good work”.
In the short-term, we must demand the removal of Thai troops from Patani and a general de-militarisation of the area. Emergency security laws should also be repealed and standards of human rights have to be established in Patani and all regions of Thailand, by punishing state crimes, reducing the power of the military and releasing all political prisoners. If the anti-democratic mobs in Bangkok and their elite allies succeed in destroying democracy it will only delay further a peaceful settlement to the war in Patani.
For a more detailed account of the war in Patani see: http://www.scribd.com/doc/207169526/The-Bloody-Civil-War-in-Patani