South people watch KL poll

Malaysia's 13th general election has spiced up the already enthusiastic efforts towards self-rule in Thailand's deep South, but activists maintain the key players in the quest for "Patani administration" are actually dictated to from within the region.

  • Published: 5/05/2013 at 09:11 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Asked what concerns or excites most active citizens in Thailand's southernmost provinces, Tuwaedaniya Tuwaemae-ngae, a member of the Pattani-based Youth for Peace and Development Academy, said the locals were wondering whether Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) negotiator Hassan Tayib would be more responsive to the situation on the ground.

"Of course people in the deep South are worried about the situation for those who think differently from the Thai state. They might have gone underground again because of the Supreme Court’s punishment of Anwar. But they are also concerned about how the BRN will react on this as well as the six deaths in Pattani," said Mr Tuwaedaniya.

On May 1, the Supreme Court verdict sentenced Muhamadanwan Hayith, known as Anwar, to 12 years in prisonment on charges of being a member of the BRN.

On the same day, a shooting at a village grocery shop in Pattani left six people dead, including a child. No one claimed responsibility for the killing, but leaflets said it was the act of revenge for the deaths of BRN members and the group would continue murderous assaults on civilian targets until their demands are met.

BRN representatives Hassan Tayib and Abdulkarim Khalib, in a statement on YouTube a day before the April 29 talks between the National Security Council and the BRN delegation in Kuala Lumpur, demand that the government accept five conditions, including allowing the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to participate in the talks and to release all prisoners unconditionally.

Other demands are: the government should accept the role of Malaysia's government as a mediator of the talks; the talks should be restricted to Melayu Patani representatives led by the BRN and the government; and the OIC, non-government organisations and Asean members must be allowed to observe the peace talks. Included within the demands is the release of all prisoners and all arrest warrants for suspects in national-security-related issues be dropped without condition, and that the BRN be recognised as a "liberation movement" and not a "separatist group".

Mr Tuwaedaniya said the public was expecting BRN coordinators to come forward with convincing explanations that they were not involved in the Pattani shooting.

"Normal attack patterns of the BRN movement show they do not take risks in downtown areas as they aim at areas with local support so that they can blend in or hide after attacks. But [with the Pattani shootings] this was not the case. They also rarely use AK guns like the ones used on Wednesday," said Mr Tuwaedaniya, hinting an armed group linked to the Thai army should be investigated.

On Sunday's Malaysian election, he rebutted some of Bangkok's fears that if the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition alliance in Malaysia won the poll, the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) might become bullish on self-rule support for southern Thailand.

"Certainly, a PAS gesture would be supportive of the fighters on the ground than [what you could expect from] the ruling United Malay Nationals Organisation (UMNO), a partner of [Malaysia's] ruling Barisan Nasional. But the BN also bent on diffusing the southern Thai problem in line with local demands."

Mr Tuwaedaniya noted that a solution to the deep South violence was not leaning towards Islamic solidarity as PAS might think, but towards an adjustment to the political structure that is in tune with cultural and ethnic aspirations and the way of life of the Melayu majority.

However, Mansaur Saleh, an independent intellectual in Yala, said he would like to see the PR win as its leader Anwar Ibrahim had been passionate about Islamic people across the region since he was a young activist.

Mr Anwar had been a leader of the Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), or Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement, and would certainly support vigorous continuity of peace negotiations between the Thai NSC and the BRN, Mr Mansaur said.

Mr Mansaur said believed the enthusiasm about Malaysia's election and its results had already sparked more discussion within Thailand's deep South, as it gave an example of good and bad political parties.

“The local people know justice, transparency and good governance are key if they want to have some sort of self-administration in the near future. They must not repeat the failure and faults of the BN [in running states],” he said.

Mr Mansaur, a Yala native, said he agreed with Mr Tuwaedaniya that the BRN team in Malaysia should be more creative and courageous in speaking out to the Thai public on issues that affect the image of the movement.

"After all, they are already in the spotlight. They should request a fact-finding team comprising those other than Thai members to examine the six deaths and other issues," he said.

About the author

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Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter

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