On August 11-12, 2016, the series of bombing attacks tookplace in 7 southern provinces (Trang, Krabi, Phang Nga, Phuket, Surat Thani, NakhonSrithammarat and Prachuap Khiri Khan), killed 4 civilians and wounded more than30. The junta government quickly blamed political foes, who were upset over theresult of the national referendum, and dismissed the involvement of the MalayMuslim insurgent (InternationalCrisis Group, 2016). PoliceChief Chakthip Chaijinda, on the other hand, said most of the suspects areMuslims and some of them were further linked to previous attacks in the threesouthern provinces (Hiebert & Nguyen, 2016). In total, the number of unrestincidents has increased again, 807 incidents in total (DSID, 2016). In April 2017, BRN publicly rejected the Junta government’speace process, insisting that any peace process must be conducted underobservation of the third parties from international community (Abuza, 2017).The Junta government once again dismissed BRN’s demands, stating that peacedialogues do not need any international observer and separation is impossibleas well (Abuza, 2017). Although MARA Patani still continues the peace dialoguewith the government, the dialogues seem to be meaningless since there is nofull cooperation of BRN, the main player in this southern border issue.
In the first six months of 2017, there were 351 unrestincidents in total (DSID, 2017). According to Deep South incident Database(DSID) (2017), over 60% of incidents in the first quarter have an unclear cause(DSID, 2017). On the other hand, the main cause of incidents, taken place inthe second quarter of 2017, is found related to separatism (DSID, 2017). 4. Analysis: Causes of the insurgency in the South and the province of SatunSince there are several causes ofthe insurgency in the southern border provinces, the following categorizedcauses including ethnic, cultures and religious cause, Political cause,economic cause, military cause, education cause, and external cause shall bediscussed respectively. 4.1) Ethnic, culturesand religious causeAssimilationpolicies, historically issued and implemented by Thai government in order tointegrate separate ethnic groups into single Thai community, have deeplyaffected Muslims in the South.
Thesepolicies were seen as the government’s approach to put Malays into a “secondclass citizen” category (Mahakanjana, 2006). The policies included restriction on wearing Malay sarong, using Malaylanguage and even having Malay or Arabic names, for example. The governmentfurther replaced Sharia law, the body of Islam law, with Thai law (Forbes, 1989). Sharia law is believed to be God’s law covering not onlyreligious context but also a variety of topics, such as crime, politics, andeconomic, besides it also regulate individual behaviors in terms of sexuality,diet and so on (WorldHeritage Encyclopedia, n.d).
Since the policies and programs aimed to promote Thai as national language andBuddhism as state religion, Islamic customs, language as well as socialstandard were thus gradually eliminated. Because culture is a key element ofindividual’s identity, the Muslims hence struggle to protect their own culturesincluding language as well as custom against outsider threats (Engvall & Andersson, 2014). As a result, it hasgenerated strong resentment among Muslims in Thailand that led to the spread of Muslim separatist groupslater on (Maisonti, 2004). 4.2) Political causeEventhough central administrative system that was formed and developed since 1892,has been seen as applied to every provinces in Thailand, least or more, disparitywas showed since then. According to Thomas Parks (2009), the central governmentallowed Satun to maintain its political autonomy in a higher level comparing towhat it allowed in Patani region, which collectively referred to Pattani, Yala,Narathiwat and Songkhla (Parks, 2009). Satun is a province of Thailand that was mentioned in somejournals that it was once a part of the Malay kingdom of Patani. Thailand’shighly centralized government resulted in the decline of the authority oftraditional state institution.
Civil servants, who have been appointed from thecenter – Bangkok – are rotated around the three southern provinces regardingthe purpose of Thai government to maintain central control (Burke et al., 2013). However, according to Kevin T. Conlon (2012), thesegovernment’s officials were indeed incompetent and often seen as corruptors (Conlon, 2012). Although the 1997 and 2007Constitutions that aim to promote people’s participation in the administration,transferred some responsibilities from the central to local government andencouraged more local participation, these reforms could hardly be seen onground (Burke et al., 2013). The strong power of centralgovernment continually remains, for instance, elected local representativesfrom the southern border provinces are considered to be less credible hence arenot able to intensely influence policies for the area (McCargo, 2008).
Alack of political participation among the Muslims in the southern borderprovinces has been found linked to a lack of education at the first place (Burke et al., 2013). Even though the government tried to increase Muslimpolitician or staff in the bureaucracy, the Muslims still face obstacles inrecruitment process because of their education levels (McCargo, 2004). The elected Muslim politicians arealso found taking only a small position in decision-making process and have notbeen able to notably influence government policies (Timberman, 2013).
Moreover,the Muslim’s interaction with the state is very limited since only Thailanguage is accepted in official communication according to Conservative Thailanguage policy (Smalley, 1994). It hence shows a failure of Thai government inresponse to the need of the Muslims living in southern border provinces,especially those who are Malay-speaker. On the other hand, the elected Malay Muslim politiciansare seen to be absorbed into mainstream Thai society therefore they haveforgotten their origin, consequently the Malay Muslim community rarely haverepresentatives in political and socioeconomic process (Abdullah, 2008). 4.3) Economic causeAccordingto Office of the National Economic and SocialDevelopment Board (2013), the Gross provincial product (GPP) of these three southernprovinces has been indeed increased and is now higher than it was in the past. Although the economic conditionof the South has improved, least or more, over the past decade, still theregion has been experiencing slow economic development.
Comparing to Bangkok, the GPP rate of these threesouthern provinces has grown only a small percentage from 1995 to 2013 (Figure4). Figure 4 Gross Provincial Product (GPP) of Pattani, Yala,Narathiwat, and Bangkok in 1995 to 2013Source: Officeof the National Economic and Social Development Board WebsiteInterms of natural resources, the southern border provinces have abundant naturalresources, which notably contribute to the national economic growth, forexample, rubber. The rubber plantations in the South are more than half foundin the three southern provinces and Songkla (Nurakkate,2012). Accordinglyif Thai government were to lose their control on these areas, the nationaleconomy tends to be severely impacted.
This consequently raises a questionamong the Muslim community whether the natural resources of the South are beingexploiting by the central government as well as the Buddhists or not (Melvin, 2007).Moreover, the difference ofincomes between Malays and Thais as well as other ethic minorities, such asChineses, was striking in the region (Mahakanjana, 2006). This income difference thus induced the Malaysto perceive that Thais and Chineses were exploiting their naturalresources (Mahakanjana, 2006). The majority of Malays owns small businesses, areengaged with rubber cultivation plus small-scale fishing, whereas middle andlarge-scale businesses are left in hands of Thais and Chinese minorities (Thomas, 1975). Thongchumnum,Suwanro, and Choonpradub (2009) link education and unemployment rate of Pattaniprovince, where approximately 80% of population are Muslims, in their paper.Although occupational structures are varied in each province, unexpectedly thefinding reveals that in Pattani populations, who had completed secondaryeducation, have a higher rate of unemployment than those who only had completedelementary education and even those who have no education completed(Thongchumnum et al, 2009). Theeconomic underdevelopment – including unemployment and poverty – is identifiedin many journals, yet is not considered as a major cause of the insurgency inthe three southern provinces.
Instead, the poor economy of these provinces,comparing to other regions in Thailand, reveals inequalities that then createsa sense of exclusion as well as economic grievances among the Muslims. Yet, there is an argument that thecore grievance of the insurgent is mainly contributed by not socio-economic orreligious, but rather political disparities(Jitpiromsri & McCargo, 2010). This argument could be explained by a set ofdemands, which is issued in 1947 by Haji Sulong, the chairman of the Pattani Provincial IslamicCouncil. His demands focused more on political participation rather thaneconomic matters. Haemindra (1976) mentioned that the set of demands, known asseven-point petition, and that were summited to Thai government, call for:1. The appointment of a single individual with fullpowers to govern the four provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and SetulSatun and in particular having authority to dismiss, suspend, or replace allgovernment servants, this individual to be local-born in one of the fourprovinces and to be elected by the people; 2.
Eighty percent of government servants in the fourprovinces to be Muslims; ?3. Malay and Siamese to be official languages; ?4. Malay to be the medium of instruction in the primaryschools; ?5.
Muslim law to be recognized and enforced in a separateMuslim Court other than the civil court where the one time kathi sat as an assessor;?6. All revenue and income derived from the four provincesto be utilized within them; ?7. The formation of a Muslim Board having full powers todirect all Muslim affairs under the supreme authority of the head of statementioned in (1.)?(pp.197–225).
4.4) Military causeConsideringthe case of key event of 2004, one relative factor though not a root, contributedto the insurgency is being discussed – Military response. Military interventionfrom Thai government seems to be a significant solution toward the politicalcause of the insurgency.
However, at the same time, it is somehow seen as afactor of the insurgency itself. According to Moss (2009), military policiesissued by the government have shown some relation with a rise in violence.Implementing softer approaches is prone to be able to lesson such violence(Moss, 2009).
The failed military policies announced by the ex-prime minister,Thaksin Shinawatra, can be a good example. Thaksinrecognized the insurgent activities – shooting, bombings, and so on – are causedby criminals with their purposes to create instability and discredit his government.He hence dissolved the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC),who works ‘to monitor the work of civilian government agencies and to coordinatewith security forces in Thailand’s troubled Malay Muslim majority provinces inthe south’ in 2002 (Wheeler, 2010, p. 208). The SBPAC was realized as a crucialelement in a successful counter-insurgency campaign led by the government (Storey, 2007). The authority to control and manage thesouthern provinces that used to be under the army was transferred to the policeunder the authority of Thaksin (Storey, 2007). The police, however, were blamedfor committing human rights abuses because of their cruel actions on dealingwith the drug trafficker. Under the ‘War of drugs’ campaign issued by Thaksin,a number of Muslim leaders of separatist groups were accused as drugtraffickers so they were killed brutally.
Theviolence hence reemerged in 2004 when more than 50-armed men launched a bigattack on an army camp in Narathiwat province, killed four Thai Buddhistsoldiers, and stole a large cache of weapons. In a response to this attack, Thaksingovernment immediately adopted a hardline military policy that included declarationof martial law in the southern provinces (Storey, 2007). Since the situationhas not yet improved, the government then adopted other responses in thefollowing years. For example, dividing the south into red, yellow, and greenzones; villages where the rate of violence remains high will be identified as’red zone’.
The so-called ‘red zone’ villages will be cut out from governmentfunding for provincial development (Gunaratna & Acharya 2012). Thaksin’shardline policies not only intensified separatist sentiment of the Muslims inthe South, but also strained relations with Thailand’s Muslim-majorityneighboring countries, particularly Malaysia (Storey, 2007). The two bloodshedevents, which resulted from his hardline policies, are powerful tools that incitethe Muslims to fight against Thai Buddhist state (ICG, 2009).
Anger of these twoevents moreover became a main reason of many members to join the insurgentgroup (ICG, 2009). Since then, violence has continued to rise and a number of peoplehave been killed on a nearly dailybasis. The non-stop violence thus has been marked as one of SoutheastAsia’s bloodiest unresolved conflicts (Burke et al., 2013). In short,hardline policies and the use of excessive force need to be very carefullyapplied; otherwise it probably results in an increasing of violence inparticular periods. This can be explained more in paradoxes of counterinsurgency written by Cohen and many ofexperts (2006). ‘The more force you use, the lesseffective you are. Any use of forceproduces many effects, not all of which can be foreseen.
The more forceapplied, the greater the chance of collateral damage and mistakes. Enemypropaganda will portray kinetic military activities as brutal. Restrained forcealso strengthens the rule of law the counterinsurgent is trying to establish.(p.52)’4.
5) Education causeThere is an argument thatThai government’s education policy has somewhat played a role in the insurgencyin the three southern provinces through efforts to implement the nationalcurriculum including national language, narrative histories, and especiallyeducation reform (Smith, 2014). Historically, the Muslim communitieshad their own informal education system in which Malay was regularly used ininstruction and the content was Islam (Aphornsuvan,2003). However, because education was perceived as anecessary mean to achieve modernization, the very beginning education reformwas held in the region of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) (Aphornsuvan, 2003). Since then, Muslim children were required to studyin Thai and the content was changed to Buddhism (Aphornsuvan,2003).
Moreover, Thaigovernment tried to bring the Pondoks, the central transmission of Malay Muslimcultural and identity (Narongraksakhet, 2006), under its control in order toencourage the assimilation process through requirement of registration underthe Ministry of Education, for example (Smith, 2014). The resentment has thusbeen raised among the Muslim community, who considered these government approachesas disregard of Muslim local history, language, and religion, so a ‘weapon ofmass assimilation’ (Von Feigenblatt et al.,2010). Public education was further seen as what made it difficult to pass onthe collective memory of a unique past to new generations of Malay Muslims (Feigenblatt, 2010)Since the government-led educationsystem was considered as a symbol of Thai Buddhist state oppression, Buddhist teacherswere hence being targeted and killed, furthermore government schools have beenburned or bombs frequently.