You are on page 1of 19

Paper to be presented at the symposium


“ISLAM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND CHINA: Regional Faithlines and Faultlines in the Global Ummah”
28 November – 1 December, 2002 City University of Hong Kong


Saroja Dorairajoo National University of Singapore

A Symposium organized by: City University of Hong Kong • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences • Southeast Asia Research Centre • Chinese Civilisation Centre • Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies

social anthropologist John Embree (1969) called Thailand a loosely structured social system. according to Embree (1969:170) by (1) a loosely integrated culture that allowed for diverse individual and communal behavior. (2) loose integration of society. Chinese or his basic thesis receives support from several works on ThaiMuslims. Writing of the status of Islam within a democratic Thai nation-state. be they Islamic. according to Embree (ibid. social scientist Yusuf Imtiyaz (1998:281) eludes to “Thai Islamic accommodationism” which has allowed Thai Muslims to “attain political recognition as a distinct religious community.” His view parallels those of recent writers like Omar Chapakia (1997). a well-known author of Islam in Thailand. Omar Farouk Bajunid (1999:211). have managed to find ways to realize their interests within the Thai democratic state. Political scientist. which show how the highly nationalist and racist policies enacted by the government of Phibulsongkram (1938-1944. argues that the high level of religious tolerance and the constitutional ruling of religious freedom in Thailand have been responsible for the relatively harmonious co-existence of Islam with Buddhism. The fact that these separatist rebellions resulted in violence against Thai-Buddhists and official and state institutions such as schools and public buildings and threatened the physical sovereignty of the Thai nationstate has given rise to a social memory of a violent Islam in Thailand.). have not only facilitated the functional integration of Thai society but also accommodated foreign cultures and religious influences. (3) bureaucratic grace represented by prolonged process of execution.FROM MECCA TO YALA: NEGOTIATING ISLAM IN PRESENT-DAY SOUTHERN THAILAND Saroja Dorairajoo Department of Sociology National University of Singapore socsdd@nas. Such views contrast sharply with earlier works written exclusively on southern Thai Malay-Muslims by authors like Wan Kadir (1990). (4) low degree of co-operative organization. These sociological features of Thai society. Draft Only – Not for Citation 1 . Despite much criticisms leveled at some of the more prejudiced comments of Embree’s analysis. This loosely structured system was characterized. Chaiwat Satha-anan (1987) and Arong Suthasasna (1989). Suria Saniwa (1998) and Andrew Cornish (1997) who show how Muslims in Thailand. and INTRODUCTION In a seminal paper describing Thai social organization. Surin Pitsuwan (1985). 1948-1957)1 led to the rise of various separatist organizations in the three Malay-Muslim dominated southern Thai provinces of Pattani. especially in the deep south of the country. Ibrahim Syukri (1985). Yala.

I hope to show how Islam in Thailand in general and the south in particular. (Scupin 1998:229) are concentrated in southern Thailand. especially in the four southernmost provinces of Pattani.222). Sam-Sam (Siamized Malays) in Songkhla and Satun. and Satun (population estimates in these 4 provinces range between 60% and 80%) and the majority of the Muslims in these four provinces are mainly ethnic Malays. Baweanese.8% and 5% while a more recent work by Raymond Scupin (1998:229) argues for a 6% population or approximately 4 million Muslims in Thailand. Bajunid (1980) reports that the non-Malay Muslims of Thailand have well assimilated into Thai society. Benggali. What distinguishes Draft Only – Not for Citation 2 . Besides the Malay-Muslims of southern Thailand. Nor have they been predominantly violent. For example. In fact. Javanese.800 mosques2 spread over the country stand as visible testimony to the established presence of this religion in Thailand. BACKGROUND HISTORY ON MUSLIMS IN THAILAND Although the official figure given for Muslims in Thailand is 4% of the population of about 62 million people. Cham from Kampong Cham in Cambodia. The reactions to these forces have not always been accommodationist (as argued for by Imtiyaz). based on his own personal research. I argue that the nature of the various manifestations of southern Thai Islam have always been one of negotiation with the larger social forces impinging upon them. Minangkabau. as seen in the separatist struggles carried out between the 1960s and the late 1980s by southern Thai Malay-Muslims who feared the annihilation of their religious. the Bangkok-based Central Committee for Islamic Affairs in Thailand had estimated a population of 10% Muslims in 1977 (Bajunid 1989:1) and Omar Farouk Bajunid. Despite the controversy over these figures. proposes a figure of 5-8%. In his doctoral dissertation. Pathan from Pakistan. Punjabi. estimated around 70%. Again this numerical figure is in dispute as Bajunid proposes a population of 2. Islam remains the most popular religion in Thailand after Theravada Buddhism and the more than 2. Muslims practicing Islam in Thailand have constantly engaged in a culture of negotiation. linguistic and ethnic identity as a result of the then Thai government’s policies aimed at Thai-icizing all its citizens. Gujerati. has to be understood within the politico-cultural milieu of the Thai state and more recently in the context of events in the larger Islamic world. need not be mutually exclusive. writing in 1999 (p. Persian Shi’ites.4 million Muslims in Thailand (1999:222). Andrew Forbes (1989:167) refutes this figure saying that “true figure” may lie somewhere between 3. Narathiwat. However. particularly in southern Thailand. The majority of Muslims. They have adopted measures for existing in Thailand that represent the best solutions for them to continue their survival as Muslims in Thailand. Thai-Muslims as well as scholars researching on Thailand seem to refute this figure. Haw Chinese (from Yunnan province in South China).In this paper. other ethnic Muslim populations found throughout Thailand include Arab (predominantly Hadramauti). I argue that these divergent perceptions on the state and status of Islam and Muslims in Thailand. Yala. I have chosen to focus on the Malay-speaking southern Thai society because this is the area of the country where I conducted research.

incorporating Pattani. the Malay Muslims of the south were envisaged as a violent people by the general Thai-Buddhist population. and Narathiwat. Yala. Bajunid argues. however. 3. The southern Thai Malays. an anthropologist who has written extensively on Muslims in Thailand. Raymond Scupin (1978. argues that the southern Thai Muslims exist in a MalayIndonesian Islamic religious and cultural ethos while those elsewhere in the north and central parts of Thailand exist within a Thai-speaking Theravada Buddhist framework. In fact. Between the late 1950s and the late 1980s. Even till today.3 Draft Only – Not for Citation 3 . This ethno-religious and social distinction is often highlighted to emphasize the distinctness between Malay-Muslims in the south and Thaispeaking Muslims elsewhere. non-Malay Muslims in the central and northern regions of Thailand were primarily economic migrants into Thailand who settled in the country and married local women. While the Malays in the southernmost provinces were indigenous to the region and their forefathers had been converted to Islam by missionaries from the Malay archipelago during the fifteenth century. The Malays here have been depicted as orienting themselves to the Malay country of Malaysia due to the geographical proximity of Malaysia as well as to the ethnic. Within Thailand. religious. The predominantly ruling and religious elite who organized the separatist rebellions and earned the support of the majority of the Thai Malay population for their cause. Pitsuwan 1985. Che Man 1990). several Malay separatist organizations were formed to fight the fight state in their quest for a separate Thai Malay state of Pattani. linguistic and kinship ties between the Malays of southern Thailand and the Malays of Malaysia (Haemindra 1977). many of whom converted to the faith of their husbands. perceived as under threat of annihilation by the racist policies of the nationalist Thai government of the late 1930s to 1950s that was seen as the trigger for the separatist wars. that they have not assimilated into Thai society in that they continue to speak the local Malay dialect as their mother tongue and practice Malay adat or customs. 2.them from non-Muslim Thais is their Islamic faith. 4… Straits Times October 31). the remnants of the separatist movements of this time are still being held responsible for the occasional bombings and arsons carried out in southern Thailand till this day (Bangkok Post October 30. continue to maintain their own distinct identity. including the language. argued that the Malay language and Muslim faith were under threat of annihilation by the Thai government which promoted Thai as the national language and Buddhism as the state religion (Suthasasna 1989. 1998:229). Scupin (1978) shows how these Muslims who exist in a predominantly Buddhist environment have become Thai-icized in that they have adopted many aspects of Thai society. the Thai government. and the Thai media. With regards to the MalayMuslims of southern Thailand. it was this distinct ethnic identity. 31. on the other hand. Nov 1.

as well as the “poetics ways of making do” or “bricolages” of Michel de Certeau. Instead. Lu. as argues for by authors like Reed-Danahay (1994) and by authors of Thai Islam such as Imtiyaz (1998) and Bajunid (1980. my own research. Many a times. The Hikayat Patani. Karen. such tactics were not pursued in order to thwart or resist certain existing ideologies. This process of incorporation. Thongchai Winichakul (1994) shows the dilemma the never colonized Thai state faced in its attempt to convert a motley group of Mon. Despite these perceptions.The separatist past of the southern Thai Malays is constantly imagined and reimagined to construct an image of an unassimilated people living at the physical and political fringes of the Thai state and eternally capable of threatening the sovereign borders of the Thai nation-state. Shan. Kayah. This term further adds to the image of an unassimilated and threatening population of Thai Malays. I will explore this culture of negotiation historically and then go on to present data from my own recent research which reveals how this culture of negotiation is still maintained by southern Thai Malays in order to ensure their survival within the Thai nation-state. the “full transcript” (to borrow James Scott’s term) of the culture of negotiation is not entirely that of resistance. reveal changes that are taking place in Thai Malay society that are contrary to some of the above images. Neither is it one of accommodation. has a common meaning as “guest” (Cornish 1997:1). 5 written in pre-colonial times. king Phaya Tu Nakpa was struck by a mysterious skin disease. what Thongchai calls the making of the external into the internal (p. 1999). it represented active adaptations to the external circumstances surrounding them. 7-14). Khmer. As payment for the treatment the king agreed to Sheikh’s Draft Only – Not for Citation 4 . Such processes can be seen in the way Muslims in Thailand were incorporated into the Thai nation-state throughout its history.6 The founder of Patani. which refer to the means employed by the underclass to subvert the power of the oppressors. Although these tactics may seem akin to James Scott’s (1985) “weapons of the weak” which refer to the tactics adopted by underprivileged classes in order to subvert their class position. prominent Thai historian. records the founding and Islamization of Patani. The derogatory term khaek. conducted predominantly in the province of Pattani and complemented by data from Yala and Narathiwat. and Malay into Thai nationals. Lao. No one was able to cure him except Sheikh Said. used by Thai-Buddhists to refer to Thai-Muslims and South Asians. I use the term culture of negotiation to refer to the tactics adopted by a politically weaker or minority people in trying to survive in a politically more powerful society surrounding them. Phuan. Hmong. they allowed for existence without active or covert resistance and compliance. I hope to show how Malay-Muslims of southern Thailand have engaged in what I call a “culture of negotiation” throughout their existence within the Thai polity. has been an ongoing process throughout Thai history. a Muslim from Pasai.4 HISTORY OF NEGOTIATION IN MUSLIM RELATIONS WITH THE THAI STATE In his most famous work detailing the creation of the Thai nation-state state. Lua.170) or the creation of the “We-self” as opposed to the “They-self” (pp. Instead.

it becomes obvious that the King of Patani converted after he realized the strength of the vow he made to the Muslim holy man. Not daring to risk contracting the illness again (and Sheikh Said clearly warned that he would never cure the king again if he did not make good on his promise to convert to Islam). then I shall not break my promise with him [Sheik Said]. Patani became the major Islamic trading center in the Malay Peninsula (Bougas 1988:xv). The power of this holy man was much stronger than that of the power of the king in that the disastrous illness beset the king each time he broke his promise to this holy man. may I never recover from my illness if I break this agreement” (Teeuw & Wyatt 1970:150).7 Following the Patani king’s conversion to Islam. Siam (Buddhist-ruled kingdom of Ayudhya) and India. As a rich and prosperous kingdom sandwiched between Siamese neighbors to the north and the Malay kingdoms to its south. the king converted. In 1516. Muslim traders began to flood here and they brought with them traders from other parts of the world. Reading this story. but apart from that he [did] not alter a single of his heathen habits" (Teeuw & Wyatt 1970:152). the same disease afflicted the king and this time he made a solemn vow. “[I]f this time I again recover from my illness. which provided sanctuary against the northeast monsoons. Sheikh Said. the king ignored his vow and he was struck by the same disease again two years later. Ships called at the mouth of the Patani River carrying traders from Java and Arabia. Patani received its first European traders in the form of a Portuguese ship arriving from Melaka to trade in Patani (Conner & Bailey 1985:18). Becoming what I call a “minimalist Muslim” enabled the Patani king to keep his promise to Sheik Said and prevent the illness from striking him again while it also supported his alleged intention of wanting to preserve his old traditions by keeping to his “heathen practices such as worshipping trees and stones and making offerings to spirits” (Teeuw & Wyatt 1970:155). According to Thai historian Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian (1988:5). Fraser 1960:19). the rulers of Patani sought to form vassal relations with their stronger neighbors. But he became a Muslim in as much as he “[gave] up worshipping idols and eating pork. these relations comprised a kind of Southeast Asian “diplomatic” system which was an effective means of regulating interactions between unequal political units in order to minimize clashes.condition that he convert to Islam. Patani sought to safeguard itself by engaging in tributary relations with its powerful northern and southern neighbors. besides China and Japan (Conner & Bailey 19985:18). Draft Only – Not for Citation 5 . pepper and foodstuffs were the major trade goods that flowed from Patani and into China and Japan (Andaya & Andaya 1982:67. Located at the interstices of two galactic polities (Tambiah 1976). The Islamization of Patani was based on adjusting oneself to conform to the surrounding circumstances in a way that brought benefit to oneself. With its natural harbor. Gold. Patani’s fame as a trading center increased and the Dutch and English set up factories here in 1602 and 1612 respectively (Nik Anuar 1994:2). On being cured. By the idol(s) which I worship. Sheikh Said cured him once again and the king once again reneged on his promise to convert to Islam. A year later. After the fall of Melaka in 1511.

Smaller and weaker states arranged themselves around the centers in tributary relations.rivalries and wars and ensure that relative peace and order would prevail in the region. Patani remained a close ally and vassal of the Siamese kingdom of Ayudhya which protected it from any attack by Melaka. which allowed smaller states located near a power center in order to survive peacefully (cf. including Kedah. The overlord-vassal relationships waxed and waned depending on the strength of the overlord and the circumstances favoring the relationship. I tend to align more to the view of historians Leonard and Barbara Andaya (1982:68) who perceived the relationships between the Thai and Malay kingdoms as “constantly undergoing reassessment according to circumstances of the moment. Patani was an important trading port and by the early seventeenth century. Siam’s engagement with the Malay states in the south.” The fact that the “Malay” kingdom of Patani was deliberately manipulating its relationship with its more powerful neighbors was clearly seen in the history of the Malay states with their Thai overlords. At around the time of Siam’s conquest of Patani. Tambiah 1976:19. Majapahit.” The Patani area was also strategically important to the security of the southern region as a whole. Kelantan. Melaka did not dare take action against Pattani for fear of reprisal from the powerful Ayudhyans.8 Patani was incorporated as an integral part of the Siamese kingdom when King Rama I (first king of the Chakri dynasty. Patani’s real importance lay in its “excellent harbor and in its position as the eastern terminus of one of the overland routes from Kedah which obviated the long sea. the main power centers in the region were Sukhotai and its successor Ayudhya-Srivijaya. the capital of which stood at Bangkok) came to power in 1785. Nik Mahmud (1994:6) reports that more than its reputation as a production center of pepper and gold and a distribution center of goods involved in the Sino-Peninsular trade. Kobkua (1988) argues that this was partly due to Siam’s anxiety over Patani’s ability to project itself as the center of Islamic teachings and Malay culture among the northern Malay states. From the 13th to the 17th century. and Melaka-Johor. For example during Melaka’s domination of trade in the archipelago in the 15th and 16th centuries. Sukhothai’s power over the region was exercised through the agency of Nakorn Si Thammarat. and Patani. When Ayudhya was locked in battle with Burma and Cambodia in the late 16th century. The same pattern of negotiation with powers of a higher status can be seen in Patani’s relationship with the colonial British government of Malaya. At the same time. Patani sought to free itself from Ayudhya’s authority and in turn attacked another of Ayudhya’s vassal states. it was trading virtually with the whole of Southeast Asia. chapter 7). the protection afforded by Ayudhya allowed Patani to steal into Melaka’s control of the Chinese through the Straits of Melaka. However. Trengganu. in an attempt to extend its own territory. the administrative center of government in southern Thailand. there were other reasons to evoke Siam’s fear. began with Sukhotai’s expansionary mission into the south in the 13th century under Ram Khamhaeng. Kelantan. an important Draft Only – Not for Citation 6 .

Yala. the Siamese saw these treaties as internal affairs that did not disrupt their prathesarat relations with the Malay states. However. Narathiwat and Satun. The first major rebellion against the Thai government took place in 1922 when Malay villagers in Yala clashed with the military and police forces. a trading establishment) in Penang in 1786. Perlis and Trengganu while it retained control of Patani. While the earlier relationship was characterized by a loose overlord-suzerain relationship between Siam and the Malay states. the Siamese and British signed the Anglo-Thai treaty by which Thailand gave up its claim to its former vassal states of Kelantan. Such actions included the replacement of sharia (Muslim legal) and adat (customary Malay) laws with Siamese laws. The British made treaties directly with the Malay rulers to set up trade factories in the Malay states. the Malay rulers saw the treaties as an equivalent of the bunga emas and perak and looked to the British as their new overlord. the replacement of the Malay rajas (kings) and noblemen with Buddhist civil servants (Surin 1985:38-40) and the promulgation of the Compulsory Primary Education Act of 1921 which forced all Malay children to attend Siamese primary schools and learn Thai language (Che Man 1990:64).e. These villagers were reacting to the Thai government’s compulsory Thai education policy and to the alleged funneling of a large amount out of the south of the taxes collected from the Malays (Che Man 1988:64).force had entered the region – the British colonials who set up a factory (i. and Narathiwat. The former Thai Malay royal family members and noblemen had lost power and retired to Kelantan when Patani became incorporated into Thailand in 1909. the Siamese government undertook a series of actions to exert greater control over these states. The uprising was inspired by Tengku Abdul Kadir Kamaruddin. the former Raja of Patani who had retired to Kelantan in 1915. The early separatist groups were headed exclusively by the ex-ruling elite of Pattani. After these four Malay states were converted into provinces and incorporated into Siam. The arrival of the colonials signified a difference in the type of relationship sought. Tengku Abdul Kadir Kamaruddin used the common religious and ethnic bonds between the Malays in Malaya and those in Thailand in order to elicit the sympathy and material support of fellow Malay nobles and religious leaders in Kelantan (Surin 1985:66). the British entered the region with the prospect of making treaties with the local rulers. Patani’s strategy of negotiation became a lost cause when it became evident that the British began exerting the notion of colony or ananikhom more strictly in the Malay states forcing the Siamese to take action to retain Patani as part of the Siamese kingdom. On their part.9 This uprising set the tone for future independence movements. 10 This appeal to the shared moral and religious Draft Only – Not for Citation 7 . At the same time. there was much confusion in this new situation. while being totally unaware of the fact that these rulers were themselves vassals of the Siamese monarch in Bangkok and such treaties could be declared null and void if the Siamese did not give their blessings. Kedah. In 1909. Yala. except in matters concerning marriage and inheritance (Che Man 1990:63). to protect them from the Siamese. The former three states comprised the old kingdom of Patani while Satun was formerly part of Kedah.

This was to signify that Thailand belonged to the Thais and not to the economically dominant Draft Only – Not for Citation 8 . as outlined above. he was a young 41 year old politician who believed ardently in nation-building and admired authoritarian leaders like Hitler and Mussolini (Wyatt 1984:253). Absolute monarchical rule had given way to constitutional democracy in 1932 (Wyatt 1984:241-2). After another rebellion in 1923 to protest against the closing down of Malay vernacular and Qur’anic schools. it was perceived that there was a real threat of losing Patani to Britain if policies for the political and cultural integration of the Muslims were carried out discriminately. Phibun’s focus was on building a nation and he instituted several actions to effect this end. The fifteen year relative period of peace was also supported by the Thai government’s easing up on its assimilation policies. While Muslims here were seeking to benefit from their association with the government. Between 1923 to 1938. Thai-Muslim historian Che Man (1990:65) writes that those Muslim leaders who believed that they could gain concessions from the government and maintain their Muslim identity participated in the existing system. Substantial Thai forces were required to quell the rebellion and the Thai government was forced to review its integration policy (Wan Kadir 1990:64). Furthermore political support from the indigenous Malay Muslims of Malaya for their Muslim brethren in Thailand declined as the colonial British government tightened its grip over the Malayan states. When he became Prime Minister of the newly democratic Thailand. He changed the name of the country from Siam to Thailand. the ultra-nationalist.obligations was a strategic move by a king who had lost his power and wished to regain it. there was relative peace in the Malay-Muslim dominated provinces of Patani. there were external reasons as well. Wan Kadir (1990:64) writes that “[m]ore importantly. It elected Muslim members of parliament in the Malay provinces of southern Thailand. In 1938. Bangkok became conscious and wary of the emerging sense of nationalism in Malaya and the willingness of the Malaysian Malays to extend support to the Thai-Malay cause. the government relaxed its policies towards the south. The new government that took over comprised a small group of military and naval officers and idealistic middle-class students educated abroad.” The Thai state was therefore also weighing its options. reduced the taxes paid by the Malay-Muslims and abolished practices that were offensive to Islam (Pitsuwan 1985:68). Easing restrictions on the Muslims and freeing them from oppressive laws was seen as a means not only of keeping peace in the region but also of preventing Patani from seceding from Thailand. Practices inconsistent with the teaching of Islam were discarded and the burden of tax on the Malays of southern Thailand was reduced. Phibul Songkram. came to power in Thailand. Yala and Narathiwat. The support for the nayu cause from those nayu who had left Thailand and were now living across the border in Malaya declined after the death of Raja Abdul Kadir in 1933.

The privileging of Thai identity over Muslim identity was an attempt by the Thai government to promote nationalistic fervor among its Muslim citizens. a “hyper nationalist” (Skinner. Phibul’s efforts to convert all minorities into Thai citizens by proclaiming Thailand as a country for Thais proved offensive to minorities like the Malays. quoted in Grandstaff 1986:291) one. Left to their own devices. a series of rules known as the Cultural Mandates were issued to “change the cultural practices of the minority communities and to refashion the social habits of the entire population” (Wan Kadir 1990:65). Many nayu rejected the use of the term Thai to describe them. Sharia laws which governed matters of Muslim marriage and land inheritance were forcedly replaced by Thai laws. Arong Suthasasna (1989:96) argues that a Muslim could never become Thai since the latter term implies an espousal of the Buddhist faith. It was indicative of another nationality. the nationalistic Thai government saw an espousal of national identity as the way to promote the creation of a Thai nation-state. However. The Thai rattaniyom or Thai Custom Decree was enacted in 1939. blouses and hats (Wyatt 1970:255. Phibul was ousted in 1944 but returned to power again in 1948. The term Malay seemed to be a threat to this nation-making project. Muslims of the south were forbidden to dress in the Malay sarong. Political scientist Ladd Thomas (1989:20) argues that it was the nationalistic and chauvinistic policies of the Phibul Songkhram government (1939-1944. Wan Kadir 1990:65).Chinese and it resulted in many anti-Chinese enactments (Wyatt 1984:253-54). It was a reminder to them that they were Thais first and foremost who embraced Islam as their religion. The only form of resistance proffered by the Thai-Malays was flight. The use of the Malay language was forbidden and Malays were not allowed to use Malay or Arabic names (Surin 1985:89). The nayu had to become good Thai citizens and willing subjects of the king (Tugby & Tugby 1989: 76). Support for a resistance movement against the Thais could not be garnered since Malaysia was embroiled in the Japanese war.) The stage was set for another revolt against the Thai government. The separatist war that followed was mainly in reaction to Phibul’s government. in this case. The Thai national identity had to become an intrinsic part of their self identity. Women were forced to carry loads on their shoulders (in Thai fashion) rather than on their heads. the men had to wear trousers and shirt and the women skirts. (Forbes 1989:171). Under this decree. (ibid. This term referred a population that lived across the border in Malaysia. those Thai-Malays who found it oppressive to live under the rule of the Buddhist government left the country. Thousands left for Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. This meant they had to “convert” from being Malay-Muslims to being Thai-Muslims. 1944-1957) that provided the major impetus to the development of a separatist struggle in the Malay-Muslim (nayu) provinces of southern Thailand. Wan Kadir (1990:65) says that these harsh assimilatory measures caused resentment among the nayu and forced many to migrate to Malaysia and Saudi Draft Only – Not for Citation 9 .

Since there was no support from Muslims across the border. However. Haji Sulong. When the Phibul government fell in 1944. together with several others petitioned the Thai government to grant greater autonomy to Pattani and guarantee the preservation of Malay-Muslim culture. India. In order to better protect the Muslim south from the harsh dictates of the Thai state. As was seen earlier. and the Arab nations and brought home with them notions of freeing Muslims from the rule of kafirs (i. met its strongest opposition in the Malay-Muslim dominated provinces of southern Thailand. Many of the separatist organizations were led by traditional aristocrats as well as students of Islam who had received religious training in Pakistan.Arabia. and Pakistan into the separatist movements. Such a project is not new in Thailand where ethnic Chinese have been the target of racist actions and even killings in order to suppress and contain them (Skinner 1957. Thai-Buddhists). Egypt. to annihilate Thai-Malay identity through a nation-building project of assimilating the Muslims into Thai society. these harsh measures were abandoned and they provided temporary respite for the nayu. In this situation. This assimilation project. They Draft Only – Not for Citation 10 . The new administrative Thai-Malay elite in Thailand had become Thai-icized and was forced to remain local to the Thai government. The separatist wars that shook the southern region of Thailand have dominated most of the literature on this region. religious leaders began to involve themselves in the movement (Wan Kadir 1990:113). arising out of racism. The demise of Raja Abdul Kadir had left a void in the leadership of the resistance movement. however. Tejapira 1992. They infiltrated the pondoks and recruited the local students as well as those returning from the Middle East. a respected Patani religious leader. the only recourse left to unhappy Muslims was to migrate to Malaya and Saudi Arabia (Wan Kadir 1990:65). political or environmental crisis in a particular region that draws not just media but also academic attention to the region. the southern Philippines. The written accounts attribute the wars to the Thai government’s attempts. Phibul’s discriminatory policies against the Muslims in the south during his first reign from 1938-1944 did not raise violent reactions from the southern Thai Malay-Muslim populace. The strength of the resistance movement arose from the fact that the Malay rebels were fighting with support from kin and sympathizers across the border in Malaysia as well as from the Muslim world in general. Haji Sulong’s arrest and his subsequent disappearance in 1954 (it was assumed that he was killed by the Thai police) began a series of wars and led to the burgeoning of several separatist groups. It is interesting that it is always an ethnic. Without such support. the nayu would have never embarked on a separatist struggle. Phibul’s reinstatement in 1948 re-ignited fears afresh.e. Malaysia. The entry of Haji Sulong into the separatist war signaled the entry of the religious elite in the war. Thompson & Adloff 1955).

Here the national curriculum is taught in addition to Islamic subjects. This language is widely spoken among educated ThaiMalays while the local Malay dialect is considered phasaa talaad or market language. True enough but there is greater emphasis on learning Thai and Arabic and even English in these pondoks. The acquisition of Malay is not a lost cause though. southern Thai Malay-Muslims went to war to preserve the Malay language. We find this pattern being repeated in current times as well. Although many of the children can speak Malay because it is the language of home. Thai Muslim academic Hasan Madmarn reports on how the kingdom of Pattani was considered a center of traditional Islamic learning by the early nineteenth century. Pushed to a situation of losing their ethno-religious identity. An interesting change since Malay separatists felt that Malay was being destroyed as a result of Thai education and it was the pondoks that preserved Malay language. it is not a language of prestige. None of them achieved their aims and the Malay-dominated southern Thai states still remain part of Thailand today. This reputation of Pattani was also based on its famous ulamas such as Shaykh Dawud (1740?-1847) and Shaykh Ahmad (1856-1906) who wrote and translated several books on Islam in Jawi and Arabic. In his book detailing the growth of pondoks in southern Thailand. However. The language of the educated among the Muslims in southern Thailand. we have seen how the Malay-Muslims of southern Thailand reacted to the external forces impinging upon them in a way that best suited their aims and ideals (and note that violence was one way in this pattern of negotiating the external environment). In southern Thailand today. With aims to establish either a separate state or to merge with neighboring Malaysia.believed that the Malay language and Islam were in danger of eradication by the Thai state. Thai is the main medium of instruction. At the Prince of Songkhla University in Pattani. the active teaching and promotion of Malay is seen at a state university. When in the past. the Malays organized themselves into various rebel groups. it is interesting to note that the study and promotion of Malay is not to be found in the pondoks which was the traditional home of Malay language instruction. including Malays. because of the fact that the students who attend these pondoks come from non-Malay-speaking areas as well. This earned it the reputation as an “early center of Islam” and “the cradle of Islam in Southeast Asia” (Madmarn 1999:12). The separatist rebels have either gone underground or are distributed all around the world (many of them are concentrated in Malaysia) and are actively clinging on to their ideals in cyber space11. today pondoks teach and promote Thai as the language of the educated. Instead. the pondok has changed its function. the MalayMuslims reacted by unleashing several revolts against the Thai state. the Thai language has to be pursued. the Department of Malay Studies offers several Draft Only – Not for Citation 11 . is Thai. Thus far. However. No longer is it the traditional school of Islam but it has become a rongrien ekachon son sasana itsalam or “Private School Teaching Islam” (PSTI). In order for the Thai-Malay to be recognized as a sophisticated individual in Thai society.

my reason for expanding this press and making it the biggest one in Pattani is not just to serve the Islamic community but to serve the printing needs of everyone and anyone who wants a printing job done. Pattani) His comment reflects how despite being viewed by scholars (Madmarn 1999) and Thai-Malays alike as a press that exists to promote Islamic texts in southern Thailand. Since most of the Jawi and Arabic books at that time were printed in Saudi Arabia. In my interview with Khalid Al-alabi. I procured the following information. where many of the Thai Malays are using Thai extensively and even wedding cards are being printed in Thai and Jawi. society. Many of the early Jawi texts were printed in Mecca or Cairo and later in Penang (Madamrn 1999). Through them. the classics of Malay religious literature continue to flourish.e. Today. (comment by Khalid Al-alabi. and civilization. That status belongs to standard Malay. This press is not a Jawi press. however. the important consideration that dictated the establishment and continual operation of this press was actually economic demand. there was a need for a printing house in southern Thailand itself to meet the needs of the pondok’s demands for these texts. in Malay language. The professors teaching this language have all received their degrees at Malaysian universities and teach the standard version as the educated language of the Malays. the Jawi script is still used widely to write Malay in southern Thailand. Today. Although printing Jawi books accounts for the major proportion of my business. the local dialect. Writing about these presses. which is appropriated to convey high status to Thai Malays. The study of Malay as a professional language is that of standard Malay or Bahasa Malaysia. these presses serve the changing needs of their clientele. the national language of the neighboring country. Jawi. Khalid stressed how the reason why his father started publishing books in Jawi was because there was a huge market for Jawi texts due to the presence of the many pondoks in the southern Thai region. I print all kinds of material in Thai. Printing Thai and even English texts to cater to all Thais (including Draft Only – Not for Citation 12 . There is only one course offered one a year on the grammar of the local Pattani Malay dialect. Madmarn (1999:54) makes the following observation: These Malay owned presses of Pattani play a major role in the proliferation and distribution of Jawi Islamic literature and Arabic textbooks. there are 3 Jawi presses in Pattani today that print Arabic and Jawi texts for distribution to the local PSTIs and tadikas or weekend schools for young children aged between 7 and 12 to learn about Islam. fulfilling their vital role. us not looked upon with pride or as worthy of study. owner of Saudara Press. The mother tongue of the southern Thai Malays. the owner of the biggest of these three presses. Malay. and English. Although standard Malay is taught in the Roman script at the university.

A reaction to an external situation clearly borders on the motive of maximization of profits. Den Tok Meena is the younger son of Haji Sulong. support the participation of Den Tok Meena in Thai politics. Even in the arena of Thai politics have the Thai Malays negotiated their perceptions to fit the current situation. although existing in the Muslim-dominated south. had a higher percentage of Buddhist students.” explained the Vice-Rector. Draft Only – Not for Citation 13 . a battle without weapons. I had the opportunity to speak to the Vice-Rector of the Yala Islamic College which was set up in 1998. The economic demand and changing tastes of the population dictate these presses’ existence. So. When I was in Yala in September of this year. a battle but a perjuangan tanpa senjata. we can see how the “unassimilated” Muslims in southern Thailand are slowly changing their aspirations and aims to fit into the general society. Instead. public administration and medicine. The Yala Islamic College was therefore set up to create more Muslim graduates. However. The aim is to enable the graduates of these schools to teach Arabic in the pondoks in southern Thailand. Even cyber separatist rebel groups that operate wensites from across the border in Malaysia and constantly admonish Thai-Malays for losing their separatists aims and “turning into Thais” and selling out their Malay identity. Den Tok Meena has used his political influence to help Malay-Muslims in southern Thailand. his membership in the government which enables him to promote Malay-Muslim interests and have effective Malay-Muslim representation in Thai politics is seen by southern Thai Malays as a good compromise. Den Tok Meena is a Member of Parliament and the state representative for Pattani province. I discovered that the college was moving in the direction of offering secular courses such as law. The Vice-Rector told me that the college was set up to provide an opportunity for Muslim students to get a university education. The changing objective of the college was to find status and prestige in Thai society as educated Muslims. Another aim of the college was to provide instruction in Islam in Arabic language rather than in Thai. whose assassination by agents of the Thai government resulted in the sprouting of separatist organizations in Malay-dominated southern Thailand. commented the Vice-Rector. which was the medium of instruction at the College of Islamic Studies at the Prince of Songkla University in Pattani. Southern Thai Malays have always cast their votes in favor of this man at every election. Today. “This is because we need to develop the human resources of the Muslims here. He called this a perjuangan. I noted that Thai was also taught here and questioned him on this.Muslim and Buddhist) in the Pattani area means that religious aims are not the sole or even biggest motivator for the existence and expansion of these presses. the Prince of Songkhla University. Den Tok Meena is not seen as someone who has sold out to the Thai political structure by becoming a minister in the Thai government that had earlier killed his father. In fact. He explained that the goal of the college was to ultimately create a class of Muslim intellectuals to compete in Thai society with non-Muslims Thais. The main state university in Pattani. and hence preserve the learning of Islam and Arabic.

In the case above we see how Islam has been negotiated in a way that when presented to the Thai-Buddhist outsider so that it does not appear threatening. Nik Anuar 1994. if one prefers. he narrates the story of two lookjin who adopted Thai names.” they countered. learned the standard Thai language and took “Thai” jobs for political purposes. “See. Surin 1985. 1994. political and intellectual attainments. Yet. One sees it in the way another important minority group. That shows that he is a good and God-fearing man who is innocent of the crimes he has been accused of. Chaiwat 1987. they told that the reason for holding the prayer session was to ask for Allah’s blessings for the safety of Osama bin Laden. They viewed it as a Jewish conspiracy and claimed that Osama bin Laden had been wrongly accused by the US. When I spoke to my villagers. for the preservation of the unity with fellow Muslims has been initiated in prayer within the mosque in the presence of fellow Muslims. Wan Kadir 1990). their reason for holding a massive prayer session was offered as seeking for world peace. through economic. to the general Thai population. In his article. on Chinese assimilation into Thai society. facing racism. In the article. In this paper I have tried to show how Islam in southern Thailand exists within a culture of negotiation which is the outcome of interaction between the MalayMuslims there and the external factors. as a faith that has been subject to discrimination and intolerance by the Thai-Buddhist state (Arong 1989. On hearing of the US-led war in Afghanistan. so the following incident relates to the aftermath effects of 9/11: I had returned to Pattani in January 2002 and when I visited my research village. managed to create a space for the maintainence of their Chinese Draft Only – Not for Citation 14 . the villagers flooded me with questions about the terrorist attacks in the US. Kasian (1997:88) argues that the lookjin have. all those US bombs could not smoke Osama out. many Muslim villagers in southern Thailand had gathered in Pattani to hold a massive prayer. feign) the official nationalist “Thai identity” and play Thai according to the requisite political cultural code. CONCLUSION Islam in Thailand has been described along a continuum bordered by two extreme positions: as a religion which has enjoyed tolerance and harmonious existence in a predominantly Buddhist state (Bajunid12 1980. 1999). This type of negotiation does not exist exclusively between the Buddhists and the Muslims. most often the Thai state and ThaiBuddhists. Ibrahim 1985. learnt to adopt (or. The Thai newspapers reported this event widely and said that the Muslims had gathered together in Pattani to pray for world peace. were incorporated into Thai society. the Chinese. Despite their assimilation into Thai society. Yet. political scientist Kasian Tejapira (1997:81) shows how the lookjin or Thai Chinese. however. It seems that no discussion on Islam today is complete without reference to 9/11.I would like to narrate one more incident to show how this culture of negotiation is orchestrated by the southern Thai Malay-Muslims in order to ensure their existence survival in Thailand.

Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press. Florida. Forbes (ed.(1999) “The Muslims of Thailand: A Review”.”” Thai Malay-Muslims have managed to carve out a similar niche of existence through their culture of negotiation tactics and based on this analysis. Thomas (1959) Rusembilan: A Malay Fishing Village in Southern Thailand. Bihar: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies. 91-113. 2. pp. more civil-society centric and more “democratic. a Loosely Structured Social System”. Bangkok : White Lotus Press. Department of Politics & Government. J. USF Monographs in Religion and Public Policy No. O. the future of Muslims in Thailand does not seem worrying. Bajunid. Draft Only – Not for Citation 15 .” In Andrew Forbes (ed. ----. A. Ithaca : Cornell University Press. Chaiwat. Wayne (1988) Islamic Cemeteries in Patani. Cornish. Barbara and Andaya. Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Historical Society. (1980) “The Political Integration of the Thai Islam”. Steven Rendall. (1989) “Thailand’s Muslim Minorities: Assimilation.identity within the Thai nation-state that has become “more pluralistic. 1976-1981”. in H. genuinely nationalist (as opposed to racist). Suthasasna (1989) “Thai Society and Muslim Minority. Bougas. dissertation. Certeau. Fraser. F. Leonard (2001) A History of Malaysia (Second Edition). Bihar: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies. Evers (ed. CT: Yale Southeast Asia Studies. Arong.) The Muslims of Southern Thailand.) Loosely Structured Social Systems.) The Muslims of Thailand: Politics of the Malay-speaking South. Embress. Forbes. Secession or Coexistence?” In A. 167-82. Ph. Tonan Ajia Kenkyu (Southeast Asian Studies) 37(2):210-234. REFERENCES Andaya. Michel de (1988) The Practice of Everyday Life. (1969) “Thailand.D. pp. Andrew (1997) Whose Place is This? Malay Rubber Producers and Thai Government Officials in Yala. Tampa. Satha-Anand (1987) “A Case Study of Violent Events in the Four Southern Provinces of Thailand. University of Kent at Canterbury. Berkeley : University of California Press. Trans. D.

thesis. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. S. James (1985) Weapons of the Weak. Bangi: Penerbitan Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu. Ph. Ohio University. Deborah (1996) Education and Identity in Rural France: The Politics of Schooling. dissertation.D. (1997) “Imagined Uncommunity: The Lookjin Middle Class and Thai Official Nationalism”. Ibrahim. Hasan (1999) The Pondok and Madrasah in Patani. T. Universiti Malaya.D. pp. 75-98. Scupin. Kasian. Bailey and J.) Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe. Imtiyaz. dissertation. University of California. Journal of Muslim Studies 9(2):277-298. C. 19321994 [Thai Politics and the Reaction of the Muslim Community in Southern Thailand. Y. Draft Only – Not for Citation 16 . Nik Anuar. History Department. Bangi: Penerbit UKM. N. OH : Center for International Studies. University Science of Malaysia. Suria. Madmarn. M. ----. Suwannathat-Pian (1988) Traditional Intra-regional Relations from the Seventeenth to the Early Twentieth Centuries. Scott. William (1957) Chinese Society in Thailand. S. Journal of Muslim Studies 9(2):229-258.Sci. School of Political Science. (1977) “The Problem of the Thai-Muslims in the Four Southern Provinces of Thailand (Part Two). Nik Mamud (1994) The Malay Unrest in Southern Thailand: An Issue in Malayan-Thai Border Relations. Reid (eds. Chirot and A. (1997) “Politik Thai dan Reaksi Masyarakat Islam di Selatan Thai. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (1985) History of the Malay Kingdom of Pattani. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Raymond (1978) Thai Muslims in Bangkok: Islam and Modernization in a Buddhist Society. Omar.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 8(1):85-105. New Haven: Yale University Press. Reed-Danahay. Singapore: Oxford University Press. Athens. Skinner.(1998) “Muslim Accommodation in Thai Society”. in D. Miksic. C. (1998) “Islam and Democracy in Thailand: Reforming the Office of the Chularajmontri/Shaikh Al-Islam”.Haemindra. (1998) “De-Radicalization of Minority Descent: A Case Study of the Malay-Muslim Movement in southern Thailand. Kobkua. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 1980-1994”.Soc. Santa Barbara. trans. 1932-1994]”. Ph.

D. PULO members were said to have carried out these attacks in retaliation against the death sentences later commuted to life imprisonment passed on 3 high-ranking PULO officials arrested in 1998 (Straits Times.” 2 Bajunid (1999:223) reports that this figure is more than the number of mosques found in Muslim countries such as Brunei. and Tugby. 2002) 4 This parallels Herzfeld’s notion of “social poetics (1985) which views social actors as actively shaping and creating social realities. S. pp. (1989) “Malay-Muslim and Thai-Buddhist Relations in the Pattani Region: An Interpretation”. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. political scientist Kasian Tejapira (1997:78) refers to this period in Thai political history as “Thai official nationalism. Oman. Thammasat University (Bangkok): Thai Khadi Research Institute. 7 While the dates for the religious conversion of Pattani are not clear. Wan Kadir. Tambiah. the translators of this treatise.J. Pattani is the official Thai transliteration of the province and provincial district (Cornish 1997:xiii). A. 6 Patani is the Malay transliteration and I use it here to refer to the ancient Malay kingdom of Patani. D. Thongchai. October 31. Singapore: Oxford University Press. 5 Several different manuscripts of the Hikayat Patani are known to exist (Bailey & Miksic 1985:xv). Vella. Pitsuwan (1985) Islam and Malay Nationalism: A Study of the MalayMuslims of Southern Thailand. Che Man (1988) Muslim Separatism: The Moros of Southern Philippines and the Malays of Southern Thailand. in Andrew Forbes (ed. David (1970) Thailand: A Short History. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.Surin. Bihar: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies. Despite the fact that the Hikayat Patani implies an Indonesian source for the Islamic faith in Pattani (the Pattani king was supposed to have been 1 Draft Only – Not for Citation 17 . Wyatt. Kuwait and Jordan. The treatise itself comprises 6 parts. Bahrain. (1970) Hikayat Patani (The Story of Patani). Taking after Benedict Anderson’s (1991:83-111) use of the term. Winichakul (1994) Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. and Wyatt. Teeuw. K.) The Muslims of Southern Thailand. The Hague: Nijhoff. the biggest and most notorious Thai-Malay separatist organization. each probably written by different authors between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Walter (1978) Chaiyo! King Vajiravudh and the Development of Thai Nationalism. (1976) World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Teeuw & Wyatt (1970) have provided a translation as well as detailed study of these manuscripts. Teeuw & Wyatt (1970:4) infer that Islam could have reached Patani by 1386 because it was firmly established in neighboring Trengganu by that date. New Haven: Yale University Press. 3 A series of arson attacks on four Thai schools in Songkhla and bomb blasts in 2 Thai-Chinese temples and a hotel carpark in Pattani were attributed to the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO). Tugby. E. 73-90.

pulo. the Malays of Thailand had greater connections with the ruling house of Kelantan whose monarchs ruled Patani at various times between 1688 and 1729 (Teeuw & Wyatt 1970:265278). Another separatist group. 12 In his review article on Muslims in 10 Politically.converted by a Pasai Muslim) Teeuw & Wyatt (ibid. a political scientist. Fraser 1960:19). Draft Only – Not for Citation 18 . 11 PULO’s website is at www. Raja Abdul Kadir was imprisoned in Phitsanulok in central Thailand for 33 months on charges of agitating the Patani Malay population to the Thai government’s integration efforts (Che Man 1990:63). 8 The pre-independence name for Malaysia. 9 In 1903.geocities. Omar Farouk but this website was recently hacked and I have therefore not been able to access the information posted on this website. Barisan Revolusi National (National Revolution Front) maintains a website at http://www. claims that the high level of religious tolerance and the constitutional ruling of religious freedom in Thailand has been responsible for the relatively harmonious co-existence of Islam with Buddhism (1999:211).) and opine a Malaysian source for Patani's Islam through Trengganu (Nik Anuar 1994:2) or through its overlord in Melaka (Hall 1964:198.