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The Bloody Civil War in Pattani

The Bloody Civil War in Pattani

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Published by Giles Ji Ungpakorn
This paper is an attempt to analyse the political situation surrounding the bloody civil war in “Patani-Southern Thailand” from the perspective of those who seek freedom, justice and self-determination. Unlike most academic papers or books on the subject, this paper is not aimed at top politicians, military generals or officials of foreign powers, all of whom seek to maintain their own class interests by stressing “stability” or measures to “contain” the situation without any regard to the wishes of ordinary people.
This paper is an attempt to analyse the political situation surrounding the bloody civil war in “Patani-Southern Thailand” from the perspective of those who seek freedom, justice and self-determination. Unlike most academic papers or books on the subject, this paper is not aimed at top politicians, military generals or officials of foreign powers, all of whom seek to maintain their own class interests by stressing “stability” or measures to “contain” the situation without any regard to the wishes of ordinary people.

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Published by: Giles Ji Ungpakorn on Oct 19, 2013
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Giles Ji Ungpakorn 2013,http://redthaisocialist.comThe Bloody Civil-War in Patani1
The Bloody Civil-War in Patani and the Way to Achieve Peace
1
 
Giles Ji Ungpakorn
2
 
This paper is an attempt to analyse the political situation surrounding the bloody civil war in
“Patani
-Southern Thailand
from the perspective of those who seek freedom, justice andself-determination. Unlike most academic papers or books on the subject, this paper is notaimed at top politicians, military generals or officials of foreign powers, all of whom seek tomaintain
their own class interests by stressing “stability” or measures to “contain” the
situation without any regard to the wishes of ordinary people.According to the internal security organisation of the Thai state, since 1
st
January 2004,5,105 people have been killed and 9,372 injured in the civil war in the South
3
. More thanhalf of those killed were local ethnic Malays, which indicates that Thai security forces, in andout of uniform, are doing most of the killing.In this paper, I refer to
“Patani” or “
Patani-Southern Thailand
as an historical unitcovering the 3 most southern provinces which the Thai state created out of the destructionof the Patani sultanate. These are the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Naratiwart. Themajority of the population in these provinces are Malay Muslims with their own languageand culture.
The Thai state as an obstacle to peace and self-determination
The violent conflict in Patani is caused by the process of Thai nation building and thesubsequent colonisation of ethnically diverse communities into a centralised state, ruleddirectly from Bangkok, in the late 19
th
century. Thai nation building can be understood as anattempt by the rulers of Bangkok to create a modern centralised capitalist state, mirroringthe colonial capitalist states which were being created by the British, Dutch and French inBurma, Malaya, Indonesia and Indo-China
4
. Most of these nation building projects have ledto conflicts between the periphery and the centre, since the new centralised political orderdestroyed previous forms of pre-capitalist regional autonomy
5
. The conflict in Patani is noexception.Conflicts which are rooted in history need to be re-fuelled by continuing grievances andthese grievances are the factors which explain why the people of Patani have little faith inthe Thai state today. In comparison, these factors are missing in the North or North-EastThailand, which though colonised by Bangkok in the same period of capitalist nationbuilding, are not involved in a similar civil war. More will be said on these local grievances inPatani, but for the moment it is necessary to point out that unlike the North and North-East,the old Patani rulers and the entire Malay Muslim population of the area have beensystematically excluded from mainstream Thai society, in terms of politics, culture andeconomic development. This explains the antagonism towards the Thai ruling class in Patani.
1
This paper written after discussions at " To understand the conflict; Patani-Thailand South" seminar in Lund, 31 August2013, organised by the Peace Innovation Forum, Focus Southeast Asia. A version in Thai has also been written.
2
3
 
Kom Chat Luk 
newspaper, 1
st
May 2013.
 
4
 
Giles Ji Ungpakorn (2010)
“Thailand’s Crisis and the Struggle for Democracy” 
5
Martin Smith (1999)
Burma. Insurgency and the politics of Ethnicity.
Zed Books, London., David Bourchier & Vedi HadizEds (2003)
Indonesian Politics and Society. A Reader.
Routledge-Curzon., Christopher Duncan (2004)
Civilizing the Margins.Southeast Asian Government Policies for the Development of Minorities.
Cornell University Press.
 
Giles Ji Ungpakorn 2013,http://redthaisocialist.comThe Bloody Civil-War in Patani2
It will not come as a surprise to know that the Thai ruling class who control the Thai statehave a political, economic and social interest in maintaining the present borders andpreventing any separatist movements from splitting off areas which are currently withinthese borders. States always exists in relation to other states in the world, with more
powerful states dominating weaker states in an “imperialist” fashion
6
. States also exist tocontrol and rule over ordinary working people who make up the bulk of its citizens. As Leninwrote in
“State and Revolution” 
, the state is an instrument of class rule used to suppressother classes within society. Thus any sign of weakness, where a particular ruling class isseen to have to devolve power to others, or seen to lose control over certain areas, putsthat ruling class at a disadvantage in relation to its international rivals and those who seekto challenge its rule from within. The Thai state is not a super-power, but it is jealous of itspower over the population and resources within the present borders and it is also keen toact as a mini-imperialist with regard to weaker neighbouring states such as Lao andCambodia. Those states that rival Thailand in the region are the stronger states which aremembers of ASEAN, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam and thePhilippines.For this reason, the main obstacle to the self-determination for the people of Patani, isthe Thai state and its various constituents, especially the military. The Thai ruling class willnot concede autonomy or independence for the people of Patani without a struggle.Political struggles by mass movements, whether or not they are involved in armedstruggles, strikes or mass protests, can be successful in forcing ruling classes to concedechanges in the structure and the shape of the state. But ultimately change will be concededby political decisions taken by politicians in consultation with other members of the rulingclass. If these politicians are subjected to democratic elections and are accountable to thepopulation it can be easier to change their minds.
The Thai military
The Thai military, in its present form, is a particularly powerful and intransigent componentof the ruling class in terms of the progress to peace and self-determination in Patani.Many people have suggested that the military creates violent incidents in Patani in orderto justify asking for an ever-increasing budget. As a body of men, the military benefit fromthis, often in a corrupt manner. Approximately 160 billion baht is being spent by the Thaistate in Patani and 70% of this goes to counter-insurgency. The local economy of Patani, at120 billion baht, is worth less than this bloated military budget. Even so-called
“development projects” in Patani, such as road
-building, are given to military constructionunits
7
. Few local jobs for local people are created.However, the main reason why the Thai military has an entrenched interest in opposingself-
determination by the people of Patani is a “political interest”.
 The military constantly intervene in politics, by staging coup d'états and changingconstitutions. The latest coup d'état was in 2006, when the democratically elected andpopular Thai Rak Thai government headed by Taksin Shinawat was overthrown
8
. Thepresent army commander General Prayut Junocha feels able to state his political opinion in
6
Alex Callinicos (2009)
Imperialism and the Global Political Economy.
Polity Press, Cambridge, U.K.
7
Z. Abuza (2011)
“The Ongoing Insurgency in Southern Thailand: Trends in Violence, Counterinsurgenc
y Operations, and
the Impact of National Politics.”
Strategic Perspectives
, No. 6. Institute for National Strategic Studies. National DefenseUniversity Press: Washington, D.C.
8
Giles Ji Ungpakorn (2010), already quoted.
 
Giles Ji Ungpakorn 2013,http://redthaisocialist.comThe Bloody Civil-War in Patani3
public, as though he was a leading elected politician, on many matters ranging from the warin Patani, to voting in elections and political reform. In 2010 he was responsible, alongsidethe military appointed Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejjajiva, for gunning down nearly 90 un-armed pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok.Because of the long struggle for democracy in Thai society, un-democratic militaryintervention in politics needs to be specially legitimised. The Thai military does this byclaiming that it alone is capable of protecting the monarchy and the unitary Thai state. Boththe monarchy and nationalism are used by the military to justify its actions, with a mythcreated by the military that it serves the monarchy, when in really it is the other way round.The military gains from the fact that it can intervene in politics and commit state crimesagainst the people with impunity. Military economic interests include owning large sectionsof lucrative media outlets and having influence in state enterprises.For this reason it is especially worrying that the Thai side in so-
called “peace talks”
, heldbetween the separatist BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional) and the Thai authorities in early2013, was headed and controlled by the military. The top Thai negotiator was LieutenantGeneral Paradon Pattanatabut, secretary-general of the National Security Council andGeneral
 
Prayut Junocha rejected out of hand the BRN demand for self-rule, by stating that
he would “never accept” any change to the unitary Thai state. Meanwhile, elected Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawat kept quiet about the whole process. She is
Taksin’s sister
and thenew hea
d of Taksin’s
Pua Thai
 
party. Since the election victory of Pua Thai in 2011, thegovernment has gone out of its way to bow to the wishes of the military. One consequence
of this is that they have accepted the military’s veto on any change to the draconian
lèsemajesté law and any release of prisoners of conscience who are in prison under this law foropposing the military coup of 2006
9
.The hawks in the Thai state hope that the insurgents will surrender and that talksbetween the Thai and Malaysian governments and between the Thai government and BRN
“separatist leaders” will help towards this stabilisation. Afterwards they claim to want to
attract business investment into the area. This policy is supported by top army generals,
Yingluk’s
Pua Thai government, the Democrat Party
 
and it is similar to policies pursued bythe Taksin administration before the 2006. These hawks talk in an abstract manner about
the need for a “political settlement”, but because they refuse to consider the underlying
root causes of the civil war, in practice they are only prepared to consider a military orsecurity type solution.General Sonti Boonyaratgalin, leader of the 2006 coup and Matupum Party leader,argued in November 2009 that
“the pooling of resources and respons
ibilities of relevant
agencies with a clear chain of command will create a breakthrough in the South”
10
. It did notand will never solve the problem of Patani. Matupum Party counts among its memberssome Muslim politicians in the Wadah faction who were originally inside Thai Rak Thai, and
before that, part of the Chawalit Yongjaiyut’s
New Aspirations Party. Despite being co-optedinto the mainstream Thai polity by people like retired general and Privy Council Chair PremTinsulanon in the 1980s, they are now distant from the local population.
9
 
See Giles Ji Ungpakorn (2011)“Lèse Majesté, the Monarchy, and the Military in Thailand”. Paper given at the Department
10
 
Bangkok Post 
19/11/2009.

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