Giles Ji Ungpakorn
In a recent Prachatai video interview Abu Hafez from the MAJLIS AMANAH RAKYAT PATANI or “Mara Patani” Coalition, explained that recent meetings between them and the Thai military had been marred by General Prayut’s intransigence over any changes to the political administration of the region. While claiming to want to hold “peace talks”, which he later renamed as “talks to establish happiness”, Prayut stated that the administration of the Patani region was not up for negotiation. Abu Hafez quite rightly wondered why it would be worth talking to the junta under such conditions.
The military seem to be merely trying to seek an unconditional surrender by the insurgents in the form of an end to the armed struggle. Nothing has been offered in return. This would indicate that the junta is not at all serious about ending the conflict.
The bottom line is that to establish peace, a political solution is required. This is the lesson from every single nationalist or separatist insurgency. Such a political solution would have to start to address issues of injustice in Patani such as the present unitary Thai state which does not recognise the use of the local Yawee language and does not respect the Muslim Malay culture and religion. The education system would need to be reformed to reflect local preferences. Political self-determination has to be put forward and discussed through the consideration of independence or various forms of autonomy. If the insurgents are to be expected to give up their arms, the military must also return to barracks and stop patrolling the area. In fact there needs to be a total de-militarisation of all forces, including the so-called village volunteers. Apart from this, there needs to be a genuine “truth and justice commission” to investigate past injustices committed by the Thai state. Political prisoners must also be released.
None of this can take place under a military dictatorship where political mobilisations and open political discussions are banned, with the exception of those organised by Sutep’s pro-junta mob. In his interview, Abu Hafez very much regretted that Thailand’s previously promising democratic development had been strangled by military intervention and the political crisis.
Not only can there be no progress on establishing peace under the dictatorship, but the long term domination of political events in Patani and the whole of Thailand by the military, and the domination of so-called peace talks by military personnel, even under democratically elected civilian governments, means that the Thai State is not serious about finding and political solution. Everything is led by a military agenda to maintain the unitary Thai State and to crush any rebellion.
The peace and well-being of citizens in Patani, and Thailand as a whole, is completely tied up with the struggle for democracy and the need to cut down and destroy the power of the military. This means that Thai activist who strive for democracy must also reject Thai chauvinism and any long-term compromise with the military.