Peace Talks: possibility of ending the confict

9 10 2006

It has been over two years since January 2004 when the unrest in the three provinces in the South erupted and worsen, presumably with change in the controlling power from the military to the police as a starting point followed by Thaksin’s heavyhanded policies in handling the situation together with organised crime and local police corruption. This has always been my theory of explaining what has happened in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. The military is known to be more involved in the process than the police and the Thaksin government. The southern military was under the control of the chairman of the privy council. The chief of police in 2004 was a close friend of Thaksin. It was the fight between the military and the police, the former with the blessing of our dear former prime minister Thaksin. Seeing the conflict from this angle, i say the conflict is mainly internal, despite views about support given to local Muslim groups by our immediate southern neighbour, Malaysia. If we are strong internally, it will be difficult for external powers to penetrate or get involved in our internal situation. But because we have been internally weak politically, particularly in those three provices and as such has served as a channel for external influence.

Because Thailand and Malaysia share land border where many people hold dual nationalities. They have relatives and friends in both countries. Whatever happened in Thailand will have a great impact on Malaysia and vice versa. That is why we see a lot of misunderstanding between the two neighbours on the issue.

Recent call for peace talks to solve the southern unrest proposed by Patani United Liberation Organisation, known as Pulo, and Bersatu (both never claimed responsibility for any attacks in the southern unrest), accepted by the Council for National Security (CNS) is a positive sign of resolving the conflict and moving forward. This may take place sometimes in November, a space of time to see if the two organisatins have the power to control the situation.

What do they want? A leader of Pulo Katuri Mahkota said that while their main demand in the beginning is to gain independence, but they are now ready to compromise. My theory is that many felt that the Thai govenrment has tried to assimilate them to Thai society. As such, it is easy to forsee that they would call for an end to injustice and focues on the need for economic development, better education opportunities and greater Muslim representation in provincial government administration. They will also call for a blanket amnesty for insurgents, the optional use of Malay in schools and a regional body with which people can register complaints.

This remains to be seen if their will is real and that they actually have the power to negotiate for the Muslim groups in the three provices.



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