This study examines the continuing failure of conflict resolution efforts in the case of Thailand’s Deep South or “Patani.” The introduction of an official peace-dialogue process in February 2013 raised hopes that the insurgency in southernmost Thailand might move toward a peaceful resolution. But under two different Thai governments, dialogue between Bangkok and Malay-Muslim militants has foundered. Factors inhibiting successful confidence-building and negotiations include the militants’ disunity and parochialism and the Thai junta’s reluctance to countenance international mediation or devolution of political power. Following Lederach (1997), the study at hand contends that where efforts at conflict resolution occur only at the elite level with no corresponding efforts at the middle and grassroots level, then dialogue is liable to fail, become one-sided or simply lapse into a public relations stunt. Moreover, drawing on interviews with officials and militants, it argues that the structure of the process, including the role of Malaysia as facilitator, must be adjusted for talks to progress. The study also examines political will as a determining factor; although capacity constraints and technical problems pose challenges to a fruitful peace dialogue, they are a less immediate obstacle than the conflict parties’ lack of determination to negotiate a settlement.
This study looks at the role of Thai state security forces in the Deep South across history until early 2017. These forces include the army, navy, police and paramilitaries and have been tasked with enforcing Thai state policy toward the Deep South since the centralization of power by the Siamese monarchy over this region in 1902. After the 2014 coup, the junta initiated a policy of using both repression and negotiations with insurgent groups to achieve its aims in the Deep South. Meanwhile violence has continued. The study, using historical institutionalism, argues that Thai security forces’ preference for a hard-line policy in the Deep South has resulted in a vicious cycle of tension and violence between security officials and local Malay-Muslims which has not been conducive to peace efforts in the region. Nevertheless, any durable peace will need to satisfy military perceptions of security. Yet what has been the historical trajectory of security policy in the Deep South? What has been the policy of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order military junta toward the region? What is the likelihood of the Thai junta becoming more pragmatic regarding the Deep South in the near future? This study examines these questions.
The Introduction to this Special Issue lists the background, principal causes, possible future scenarios and potential solutions to the conflict in Thailand’s Deep South. It also presents summaries of the articles in the Special Issue.