The Regional Steering Group (RSG) of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA) calls for greater awareness and support from its wider GPPAC network regarding the simmering conflict and violence in the restive provinces in Southern Thailand.
The resurgence of violence began in 2004 in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand – Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat – between insurgents among the majority Melayu-Muslim community and the Thai military, police, and paramilitary forces.
After much unrest in the region, sparked by the three most controversial incidents of the Krue Se Mosque killings, the Tak Bai massacre, and the disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit, a public defender lawyer, the government began an escalation of military and police activity in the region in 2005 and later in the year, enacted an Emergency Decree. The Emergency degree has been reenacted every 3 months since July 2005, and has been a source of the violations to civil liberties and human rights in the region.
From a recent community visit and dialogues with civil society groups, GPPAC-SEA has observed the following to be crucial concerns and issues that need to be addressed:
- The armed conflict in the three southern provinces of Thailand is not exclusively an internal issue; there are potential spillover effects for the rest of the region.
- Contrary to popular belief, the conflict in the area is not primarily a religious, political or a terrorism issue. It is an identity issue, which concerns the cultural and historical aspects of being Melayu-Muslim that have been the underlying cause of tensions. The Melayu-Muslim as a minority group in relation to the Thai majority are seeking to assert their identity and protect their rights as a people.
- Inadequacies of the justice system as well as corruption issues among Thai authorities are additional factors complicating the conflict.
- The three southern provinces of Thailand face differential treatment and marginalization compared to the other provinces of Thailand in terms of economic and social development opportunities, reducing the space for such development among local communities.
Given the above concerns, GPPAC-SEA appeals to the Thailand government to consider the following recommendations:
- Call for an immediate ceasefire of all violent actions from all parties involved in the conflict;
- Ensure the protection of human rights of all persons, exact accountability and end impunity for past human rights abuses including those by security forces;
- Open more public space by conduct regular consultations with local communities in the three provinces on development projects and other activities.
- GPPAC-SEA will endeavor to contribute to the following possible actions/steps:
- Call on the Thai government to expedite the investigation and prosecution of suspected perpetrators of human rights violations to demonstrate commitment to justice;
- Encourage the ASEAN to activate its human rights mechanism that can guide in upholding dignity and rights of all persons in Southern Thailand;
- Support consultation initiatives with local communities in the three provinces on development projects and activities by members of GPPAC-South Thailand;
- Increased engagement, involvement, and support by GPPAC in championing the interests of victims to the Southern-Thailand conflict.