Last week the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra agreed to talks with Ustaz Hassan Taib from the separatist Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinate (BRN-C) to seek an end to the armed conflict in the southern border provinces, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the past nine years.
On the surface, the "General Consensus for Peace Dialogue Process" can be seen as an attempt by the government to blunt the separatist ideology driving the insurgency. While the move constitutes the first official government recognition of the BRN-C, which most acknowledge is the backbone of separatist groups, the document signed is also clearly bound by Thailand's constitutional framework. The 2007 Constitution sets out that Thailand's territory is indivisible. This means that separatist leaders participating in this process will be expected to give up their goal of an independent state for the ethnic Malay Muslim population in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, as well as parts of Songkhla province. In return, the government is offering members and supporters of separatist groups to surrender in exchange for an amnesty under the Internal Security Act's plea-bargaining scheme.
The parameters of this anticipated dialogue are likely to run up against the core beliefs of the insurgents. Guided by a combination of extremist ethnic Malay nationalism and Islamist ideologies, the Patani Independence Fighters (Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani), militants in the BRN-C's network, have asserted that the southern border provinces be liberated by force from ethnic Thai Buddhists to create what they call the Islamic Land of Patani (Patani Darusalam). Part of that strategy has meant not tolerating the presence of ethnic Thai Buddhists, who have increasingly been targeted by insurgents.
This article is older than 60 days, which we reserve for our premium members only.You can subscribe to our premium member subscription, here.