Tag Archives: Patani

A Step forward in Policy towards Patani

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

It is very encouraging to see that the policy of the “Future Forward Party” towards Patani has signs of being more progressive than government policies in the past.

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Premprapat Palitaponkarnpim, one of the party’s spokespersons has stated that the autonomy proposals for Patani, originally suggested by Haji Sulong, more than 60 years ago, should be an important party of party policy. However, it is unclear how many of Haji Sulong’s proposals will actually be adopted and there are already signs that Premprapat has started to backtrack under pressure from the conservatives.

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Haji Sulong was “disappeared” by the right-wing military dictatorship in 1955. He proposed the following 7 point plan which may need some updating.

  1. That the four southern provinces be governed as a unit, with a Muslim governor. For today’s world we should interpret this as meaning a governor who is a local citizen.
  2. That for the first seven years of the school curriculum, Malay be allowed as the language of instruction. Of course there is nothing to stop Thai speakers being taught in Thai in other schools.
  3. That all taxes collected in the four southern provinces be expended there.
  4. That 85 percent of the government officials be local Malays. If this corresponds to the proportion of the population that is Malay today, this would be a good proposal.
  5. That Malay and Thai be used together as the languages of government. This kind of proposal has been opposed by conservatives like General Prem Tinsulanon in the past. But it is standard practice in Switzerland, Canada and even the United Kingdom.
  6. That the provincial Islamic committees have authority over the practice of Islam. That is just devolving religious powers. But Muslim citizens in Patani should also be free to practice their religion in the way they choose.
  7. That the Islamic judicial system be separated from the provincial court system. Some Islamophobes have claimed that this would lead to gay people being caned. This is just nonsense. What it means is that citizens could choose whether to come under Islamic courts or secular courts. What is more, caning is a regular punishment in non-Islamic Singapore.

Recognising and respecting the local culture and promoting self-rule, are important proposals towards building peace. However, these proposals need to be fleshed out and there are other important issues that also need to be considered.

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Firstly, the military and para-military police need to be withdrawn from the region because at present they are an occupying force that is responsible for much of the violence and they are an obstacle to peace. The military should also be excluded from playing a dominant role in any peace negotiations. On this important issue, it is encouraging that the “Future Forward Party” is committed to reducing the political role of the military, although they have said nothing about this in the context of Patani. However, we will have to see whether they can really succeed in cutting down the influence of the military.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has suggested a separation between religion and the state and an end to state sponsorship of Buddhism. This is fine and should be supported, but it will not solve the war in Patani because it isn’t about Muslims and Buddhists killing each other. It is about the repression from the Thai state.

There was no need for Thanathorn to apologise for this proposal after being criticised by Buddhist extremists. It would make Buddhist citizens throughout Thailand free to practice their religion in a manner of their own choosing. This proposal is not contradictory to what Premprapart has suggested in any way either. The two sets of ideas help to redress the imbalance between the various beliefs in society. In the context of Patani the Muslim way of life has for too long been oppressed.

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One worrying factor is that when Premprapat was asked about how far the party’s policies on Patani could progress, he indicated that anything was possible so long as it “conformed to the Thai constitution”. The Thai constitution stipulates that Thailand is “indivisible”, thus ruling out a federal system or independence for Patani. Such a clause in the constitution does not allow for meaningful discussions about the future of Patani.

Another issue that needs more discussion is the issue of taxation. Patani is one of the poorest regions compared to other provinces and redistribution of tax revenue from the centre is necessary to improve the lives of local people.

Never the less the “Future Forward Party” has stated that they will organise discussions with Patani activists and organisations in order to further develop party policy and this is a positive aim. They should not avoid talking to the separatists when conducting these discussions.

We shall have to follow the evolving policies of this party on Patani and it is to be hoped that they will go beyond the previous attempts by Thai politicians such as General Prem Tinsulanon or Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to co-opt local leaders into supporting the Thai state.

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From Catalonia to Patani

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The recent events in Catalonia throw up some similarities and lessons for understanding the struggle of the people of Patani. The independence movements in Catalonia and Patani both deserve our support and solidarity.

In both cases, a conservative constitution rules out the democratic right of self-determination for peoples in different regions. The Spanish constitution, which was drawn up by many of Franco’s nationalist supporters after his death, stipulates that the Spanish state is indivisible. For many people living in Catalonia and the Basque country, the unitary Spanish state was imposed upon them by force. In the years of the Franco fascist dictatorship their local languages were also banned. We have just seen the brutal violence of the national police and the hated Guardia civil in trying to prevent voting in the referendum and the Spanish king also went on television to condemn Catalan independence.

In Thailand, the first constitution, which was written under the guidance of Pridi Panaomyong immediately after the 1932 revolution, did not stipulate that Thailand was a unitary and indivisible state. Pridi even supported a level of autonomy for the Muslim Malays of Patani. But successive right-wing military dictators inserted the clause about an indivisible state in all subsequent constitutions. The formation of the Thai state was carried out using military force and an agreement with the British to carve up the independent state of Patani. The Thai state has also systematically tried to suppress the local Malay language in Patani and used brute force to enforce its rule. The Thai Queen is also on record as saying that she wished she could pick up a gun to fight against the Patani separatists.

The current Catalan government has introduced measures against evictions and energy poverty; a ban on fracking; a tax on nuclear power; a law promoting women’s equality at work and against sexual harassment; a ban on bullfighting… All of these measures have been overturned by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

In Thailand the Constitutional court has been used to axe progressive infrastructure improvements and to sack democratically elected governments

In recent years those who wish to see an independent Patani state have mainly resorted to taking up arms against the Thai state. This is quite understandable given the level of repression. A recent example of such repression is the massacre at Tak Bai in 2004.

In contrast, the recent independence struggle in Catalonia has taken the form of a mass movement, including organised labour. The mass of the population turned out to defend polling stations and dockers, fire fighters and other workers staged actions in support, including the general strike to protest against police violence.

In terms of the power to challenge the state, the Catalan mass movement is much more powerful than the armed struggle in Patani. Of course the small population in Patani and the low level of unionisation means that the struggle in Patani cannot copy the exact tactics from Catalonia. However, an emphasis on building a mass social movement and on attempting to win solidarity for their demands in other areas of the Thai state would be much more productive than the current armed struggle. Linking up with those who are opposed to the Thai military junta would also be vital. This would mean that those seeking independence for Patani should view ordinary Thai citizens as potential allies and ordinary Thai citizens need to be encouraged to support the people of Patani rather than listening to islamophobic politicians and priests. Progressive Thais need to oppose Thai nationalism and the current clause in the constitution about an indivisible Thai state. To achieve this we need to build a left-wing party. The present situation means that this will not be achieved easily in the short term but there is no objective reason why it cannot be done in the longer term.

Apichart – the islamophobic fascist monk

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Recently the Thai military junta arrested and disrobed a racist Buddhist monk called Apichart. This has resulted in a wave of criticism from Thai racists and many pro-democracy activists who should know better. Many Red Shirts have complained about Apichart’s treatment by the military. They are totally missing the point.

Apichart is a thoroughly odious creature who has published videos of his islamophobic rants on social media. A couple of years ago he said that if one more Buddhist monk was killed in the Deep South, then Thai people should burn down mosques all over the country. He claims that southern Muslims have always been out to destroy Buddhism and take over the country. He uses the abusive and racist term “Kaek” to refer to Malays, Muslims and anyone from South Asia.

Apichart’s favourite Buddhist monk is the Burmese fascist “Wiratu” who uses anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilise armed gangs to attack Muslims, including Rohingya people. Wiratu also has close connections with the Burmese military. Both Wiratu and Apichart distort history by claiming that the Rohingya and the Malay Muslims “should be grateful” for being allowed to remain in the country. But the reality is that their ancestral lands were seized by the central states of Thailand and Burma during the process of nation building.

Some of those defending Apichart have posted statements on social media saying things like “we should force the Muslim Imams to drink pork fat”.

The fact that the Thai military junta has arrested and disrobed Apichart has nothing to do with any progressive ideals on its part. The military is merely afraid that Apichart will inflame the situation in the Deep South so that it will be more difficult to control. But the results is that Apichart can now re-model himself as a martyr and racists all over Thailand can come out and defend him.

One huge problem is that the prevailing ideology in Thai society is racist. Ordinary Thais, many of whom do not agree with Apichart, use racist terms like “Kaek” to refer to Malays, Arabs or Indians. The fact that there is no left-wing political party of any significance means that an anti-racist movement has never been built. Apichart’s racist rants therefore went more or less unchallenged. They were not condemned by most Buddhist monks either.

The kind of islamophobic ideas put forward by Apichart are part of the same rhetoric used by fascists throughout the world. The concrete results is to cause divisions among ordinary people and to bind citizens to the nationalism of the ruling class. Despite the fact that Apichart was arrested by the junta, his ideas, especially about the Deep South, only serve to strengthen the dictatorship and divert attention from the real causes of the violence. It is the Thai state and the military who are the real terrorists in Patani, not those small groups of Malay Muslims who have taken up arms to fight the Thai state.

Seen from this angle, the ideology put forward by Apichart dove-tails with that of another extremist Thai monk called “Isara”. Isara encouraged the use of violence to wreck the general elections in 2014. He is also Generalissimo Prayut’s favourite Buddhist monk.

Not only does Thailand desperately need a mass pro-democracy movement, but it also needs a mass anti-racist social movement to operate in tandem. Such a movement could start to turn the tide of racism within Thai society and help build a free and equal society.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/2bemah3 

Also: http://bit.ly/1JaeTJY 

Patani: NGOs, Civil Society Groups, and the National Human Rights Commission back Thai state repression

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Recently there was another bomb attack at a market and a shooting outside an educational establishment in Patani. Who should take responsibility? Who should be condemned? And in this war between the oppressive Thai state and those fighting for self-determination, which side should we support?

The NGOs and those claiming to be so-called “civil society” groups in the South are quite clear. They issued a declaration condemning the Patani fighters and urging the forces of the Thai state to catch and deal with the perpetrators. They also urged the insurgents to stop using violence.

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There were no declarations from these groups urging the military junta and the Thai state to cease violence against the local Malay Muslims, no condemnations of Thailand’s violent occupation of Patani and no urgent requests that all the generals, politicians, soldiers and police who have committed state crimes be brought to justice.

Another group, calling itself the National Human Rights Commission, condemned the insurgents and urged support for state forces of “law and order”. This commission remained silent after the killing of unarmed red shirts in 2010 and has failed to condemn the use of lèse-majesté.

So the NGOs, so-called “civil society” groups, including civil servant associations, and the National Human Rights Commission, all show double standards and take the side of the oppressive Thai state in Patani.

Arundhati Roy once wrote that “any government’s condemnation of terrorism is only credible if it shows itself to be responsive to persistent, reasonable, closely argued, non-violent dissent. And yet, what’s happening is just the opposite. The world over, non-violent resistance movements are being crushed and broken. If we do not respect and honour them, by default we privilege those who turn to violent means.”

The people of Patani are prevented from forming legal political parties which advocate independence. The Thai constitution rules out any division of the country. Various members of the ruling class have repeatedly dismissed any ideas of autonomy or even proposals to use the Yawee language alongside Thai in Patani. State officials commit acts of violence with total impunity.

All Thai citizens are forced to respect the authoritarian ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” and those who do not are thrown in jail or witch-hunted by mobs of fanatical monarchists. Naturally the “religion” in this context is Buddhism.

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The peaceful protest against the detention of friends and relatives, organised by villagers at Takbai 12 years ago, resulted in the state murder in cold blood of nearly a hundred young men. No single state official has been prosecuted.

Torture and extra judiciary killings carried out by the Thai state are commonplace and any genuine rights organisations seeking to expose this are threatened by the military.

So how are those people who oppose Thai rule and repression, supposed to act in a non-violent manner? What space for them to act in such non-violent ways has been created by the NGOs and so-called civil society groups who backed various military coups?

A quick review of some historical events shows the way in which the Thai state has used violence and repression against the Muslim Malays of Patani.

1890s King Chulalongkorn (Rama 5) seized half of the Patani Sultanate. The Sultanate was divided between London and Bangkok under the Treaty of 1909.

1921 Enforced “Siamification” via primary education took place. Locals forced to pay tax to Bangkok.

1923 The Belukar Semak rebellion forced King Rama 6 to make some concessions to local culture.

1938 More enforced “Siamification” took place under the ultra-nationalist dictator Field Marshall Pibun.

1946 Prime Minister Pridi Panomyong promoted local culture and in 1947 accepted demands by Muslim religious leaders for a form of autonomy, but he was soon driven from power by a coup led by Thai nationalist military leaders. Patani leader Haji Sulong proposed an autonomous state for Patani within Siam.

1948 Haji Sulong was arrested. In April the same year, police massacred innocent villagers at Dusun Nyior, Naratiwat.

1954 Haji Sulong was killed by police under orders from police strongman Pao Siyanond.

1960-1970 Thai state policy of “diluting” the Malay population was initiated by re-settling Thai-Lao Buddhists from the North East of Thailand in the Patani area. This was carried out under various military regimes, starting with Field Marshall Sarit Tanarat. A ban was imposed on the use of the Yawee Malay language in state institutions including schools.

The school and education system has long been used to enforce “Thainess” by the state. Given this fact, it is hardly surprising that government teachers are targets for the insurgents. Even Buddhist monks in Patani are now totally compromised by their close links with the military.

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For this reason we must be clear that the violence in Patani is the responsibility of the Thai state and it is this state which should be condemned for its actions. The violence of those fighting oppression cannot be compared to the violence carried out by an oppressive state. We should therefore side with the people who are struggling for self-determination.

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Despite the fact that I support those fighting for self-determination, the insurgent armed struggle strategy prevents the building of mass political movements for freedom. It shuts out the role of ordinary people because of the civil war conditions and often results in the death and injury of innocent civilians.

Using “ghosts” to attack the Thai security forces and then not claiming responsibility might have some military advantages, but such advantages are massively out-weighed by the political disadvantages. By not claiming responsibility for attacks on “legitimate military targets” and by not confining attacks to such targets, the insurgents allow the Thai military to use death-squads, usually out of uniform, to attack and kill local activists and ordinary civilians who are on government black-lists. The government and mainstream media can then paint a picture of the insurgents as “armed gangsters” who kill people indiscriminately. This spreads fear among the local civilian population and is counter-productive to building real mass support among local villagers and also among the general Thai population in other regions. The ghost war strategy plays into the hands of the Thai state’s dirty war.

The Patani insurgents cannot hope to beat the Thai military in an armed struggle. They are significantly less well armed and funded and the local population which might support the insurgency is a small minority of the population within the current Thai state.

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To make any political progress towards liberation and self-determination, the Patani movement needs to abandon the armed struggle and build a mass political party which can operate openly without registering as an official party under Thai state legal constraints. This party should put forward political demands which go beyond just “Patani nationalism”. The party would have to address economic and social issues and be capable of winning support from local Thai Buddhists and also capable of winning solidarity from social movements in the central, north and north-eastern regions of Thailand. The experience of the IRA struggle against the British state or the struggle of other minority separatist movements shows that the demands for freedom cannot be won through armed struggle but must be achieved through political means.

Military Junta exploits of King’s passing could backfire in Patani

  • By Adam John

    The Military Junta should be careful how it reacts to the passing of King Pumipon. Emotions are high right now in Thailand which the military will no doubt aim to exploit to consolidate its political power over the country.

    In fact, the Military Junta has already taken steps to intensify its attack on freedom of expression by demanding all internet service providers (ISPs) to spy on its users and report any ”inappropriate content”. Prachatai English reported that the secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBCT) has threatened to persecute ISPs which do not comply with this order and even international social media giants Facebook and Twitter are expected to get in line.

    The Junta’s actions mean that it has decided to continue its disregard of the international community’s concern over the right to freedom of opinion and expression and calls for the repeal of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) which was voiced during Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 11th  2016.

    Arbitrary arrests were another major concern raised during Thailand’s UPR. Last week on October 12th  2016, police and military personnel arrested 44 Patani Malay students in Bangkok under the guise of national security yet no evidence has been presented against the detained students, apart from suspected bomb making material which turned out to be Budu – a fermented fish sauce – used for making a popular breakfast dish in Patani called Nasi Kerabu. Futhermore, it was reported that the State officials who arrested the students did not even know the names of all of the people they arrested and the police refuse to say where some of the detained Patani youth are being held.

    The Military Junta will likely use recent events to silence remaining dissidents but if it decides to further exploit the current mood of the nation to suppress and mistreat Patani Malay activists, the Patani Liberation Movement will likely look to exploit State abuses for their own political advantages including drawing more support from the Patani Malay population.

    The conflict in the contested Patani/Deep South region of Thailand clearly escalated after human rights abuses and extrajudical killings committed by State officials which occurred in Tak Bai in Narathiwat province on October 25th 2004 when 85 demonstrators died. Many of the civilians who were arrested and beaten by the military and police at the demonstration in Tak Bai ended up joining the Liberation Movement and some even became high ranking commanders.

    The Military Junta would be wise not to make the same mistakes of former Thai governments if it wishes to avoid prolonging or even intensifying the conflict in Patani.

    Patani Malay student activists are planning to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Tak Bai on October 25th. After the recent arbitrary arrests of the students in Bangkok, many people will understandably be on edge. If the Military Junta decides to ban such peaceful initiatives like it did on International Peace Day last month in Patani, the response could be highly destructive for peace in the region and will only make violence seem like the only option to many for creating political change.

     

Observations on the recent bombings

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

A recent article in New Mandala by Anders Engvall outlines a well-argued case for the Muslim Malay militants being behind the spate of bombing on the 11th and 12th August, giving a detailed account of other bombing incidents and also explaining why the Thai authorities would wish to play down the strength and ability of the insurgents. [ http://bit.ly/2bqoOk4 ]

This view is backed up by Anthony Davis, a writer for Jane’s Defence Weekly, who was interviewed by the BBC Thai service.

I would add that the spate of bombings in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve a few years ago could also be linked to the southern conflict. But I would disagree with Engvall that the recent bombing campaign in Patani before the referendum had any effect on the fact that most voters in Patani rejected the military’s constitution. After all, the Muslim Malay population have great reasons to hate and fear the Thai military which has occupied their land and oppressed them for more than a century. Voting against the constitution would be a reflection of this.

Following the return to military rule in Thailand, the so-called “peace talks” with the insurgents have hit rock-bottom because the military are against any form of autonomy, being extreme nationalists and royalists. These talks were always dominated by the military, even under civilian governments, but direct military rule has made things worse. No significant progress has been made and the military has been threatening human rights defenders in the south.

If the junta and its security forces were not so corrupt and inefficient and if there was any honesty and transparency in their work, they would analyse the bomb parts and see what similarities there were with previous bomb explosions. But past experience teaches us that they are both incompetent and deliberately dishonest. So they never seem to be able to say who was behind any bombings. Instead, the usual scapegoats are arrested.

The junta can be expected to lie about the bombings because any truth would undermine its claim to be a force for stability and peace.

On the issue of who might wish to target tourist areas to hurt the economy, Patani fighters have very good reason to do this and also have very good reasons to hate the Queen. It was her birthday and she is a rabid reactionary on many issues including Patani. She once said of the Patani conflict that if she wasn’t so old she would pick up a gun and fight the insurgents. Even members of the Privy Council have privately expressed unease at her past statements on the situation in the south.

Patani insurgents also have a long history of never claiming responsibility as a clear tactic. It helps to confuse the military and is part of a devolved command chain.

It is extremely unlikely that pro-democracy anti-junta forces were behind the bombs because it does nothing to further the cause and no one in the movement has advocated or used such tactics. Yet the junta have started to round up anti-junta suspects, many of them redshirt activists.

Furthermore, I do not believe in conspiracy theories that the military did it themselves. Such conspiracy theories merely fulfill the fantasies of those who wish to see everything as being the result of actions by top people while denying real grievances among ordinary people which lead them to take matters into their own hands.

National liberation movements often target civilians. This is linked to their faulty ideology, which not only ignores class solidarity, but leads to a mistaken belief that civilians from other ethnic backgrounds are somehow responsible for their oppression. It is also linked to the strategy of armed struggle which excludes the building of mass movements. Having said all that, the real culprits causing violence in such cases are the people who run the oppressive state, not those who react against it.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/1QCoOWs  and http://bit.ly/2bemah3

Military uses “human shield” policy in Patani

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In the middle of March separatist gunmen attacked an army bunker next to Jaw-eye-rong Hospital in Naratiwat. During the gunfight that ensued, the separatists retreated into the hospital where they fired out of windows at the military. They then escaped through the rear of the hospital into the hills. It is thought that the hospital was the only available escape route open to them. No patients, members of the public in the building, or hospital employees were hurt.

In response to this event Suhaimee Dulasa, a former Patani student and youth leader, wrote an article saying that “both sides were crazy”.

Despite the fact that no one inside the hospital was injured, such tactics by the separatists are indefensible and risk destroying the legitimacy of the struggle for self-determination. This is the case even when all escape routes might have been blocked by the military.

Naturally Generalissimo Prayut ordered the security forces to eliminate all separatist armed groups as soon as possible. In reality there is no chance of a military solution to this war.

The Thai National Human Rights Commission was quick to condemn the gunmen who attacked the military post. This same commission has never condemned the military for staging coups and continuously destroying human rights and never condemned the lèse-majesté law.

However, unlike the various false “human rights organisations” who condemn the separatists, or those who merely condemn both sides, we must criticise the Thai military for establishing a bunker next to a hospital. In addition to this we must never forget that the violence of the oppressed can never be equated to the violence of the oppressors. The Patani fighters have a right to fight for self-determination. However their armed strategy can never lead to freedom because it excludes the majority of people and rejects the need for social movements.

Suhaimee Dulasa points out that the Thai military has a long tradition of deliberately setting up military bunkers right next to hospitals. It also establishes bunkers in markets and inside schools and Buddhist temples. This is despite the fact that they know that military check points and bunkers are the main targets for separatist attacks in this war between the Patani fighters and the Thai state.

Apart from the need to create an illusion that the military is there to “protect” the people from “separatist bandits”, one can only suspect that they are trying to defend themselves by using ordinary civilians in hospitals, schools and markets as human shields.

Not surprisingly, the internal security command claimed that military encampments next to hospitals were there to stop the separatists from attacking “soft targets”. This is a lie.

Separatists have no interest in attacking hospitals or markets. Their aim is to attack the military and the police and people collaborating with the security forces. In the past schools have been burnt down and teachers have been attacked, but this is because school education is used as an ideological weapon by the Thai state to destroy the culture and history of Patani. Changing this policy would protect schools. Military bunkers will never protect them.

Buddhist temples have been attacked for similar reasons as schools and because the military have sponsored attacks on some mosques, but also because army personnel have been recruited to become monks. This is not a war between Muslims and Buddhists, but a war between those seeking independence for Patani and the repressive Thai state. However, a number of extremist right-wing Buddhist monks are trying to stoke up hatred against Muslims. Recently the racist Burmese monk Wiratu, famous for organising pogroms against the Rohingya, visited Thailand to take part in a Buddhist jamboree.

The bottom line is that in the short term military bunkers should be moved away from hospitals, schools, markets and temples and in the longer term the military should be withdrawn from Patani altogether.