Policy and Concept on Peace-Making in the Three Southern Provinces of Thailand

Brainstorming Seminar



This brainstorming seminar has two main objectives:

  • To promote understanding on the Southern conflict and its causes and to make suggestions on peace-building solutions
  • To stimulate representatives of the civil society to participate in the process of policy-making with regard to the Southern conflict.

Background and Rationale

Violence in the three Southern provinces of Thailand, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, and also in some districts of Songkhla, has been steadily escalating since early 2004. Bombing and killings have become almost a daily occurrence. The rise of more puritanical strains of Islam in southern Thailand is often cited as contributing to the violence, particularly given Muslim anger at the deployment of Thai troops in Iraq. However, while Islamic consciousness and a sense of persecution and solidarity with fellow Muslims has grown over the last two decades, it would be a mistake to view the conflict as simply another manifestation of Islamic terrorism.

The violence is driven by two major causes:

  1. The state deployment of power and development policy

    From the public hearing, organized at the Office of National Human Rights Commission, dated May 13, 2004 concluded that the violence was caused by three main reasons:

    *Problems on state deployment of power and historical trap

    *Problems on state development

    *Problems of educational culture.

    Separatist violence in Southern Thailand centers on the activities of the Malay Muslim population in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, which historically constituted part of the former ‘Kingdom of Patani’ which was brought under effective Siamese rule in the late 1700s. Though the province of Satun was once belonged to the ‘Kingdom of Patani’, Thai integrationist policies have been more successful in Satun for two reasons.

    1) Most people in Satun speak Thai in their everyday lives and, therefore have not felt aggrieved by the sense of linguistic alienation.

    2) The province’s main links of communication are northward to Thailand, while road and rail access south to Malaysia is minimal. Muslims represent approximately 80 percent of the population in these three provinces and they have ethnic kin living in the state of Kelantan in Malaysia.

    In the reign of King Chulalongkorn administrative reforms had been made in the 1890s over most of the Thai territory including the southern provinces. Patani were divided into seven provinces which were governed by appointed bureaucrats under a centralized administration structure. Governors and bureaucrats were sent from Bangkok down to the Southern provinces with little or no understanding of local cultural sensitivities or Malay language skills. Rotation of senior officials and security personnel made it more difficult to build up a mutual relationship between state officials and Muslim local people.

    Moreover, the administrators have different perspectives on development to the Muslim religious and societal leaders. While the former see flowing of entertainment places, restaurants and karaoke and even brothel house from urban to rural area as a kind of “development”, the latter thinks they are similar to AIDS disease. Youth, both Muslims and Buddhists, neglect their religious rituals, and drugs addicts spread out from all kinds of labor workers: construction, fishing, truck driver, to the youth both in formal and informal educational system.

  2. The dynamics of ethnic, identities and religious beliefs of the new generation.

    Ethnic difference could not be denied since Muslims in the three southern provinces share different identities in ethnic group. From the late 19th century on, the royal government developed a policy of nation-building from above, which forced the transformation of the multi-ethnic society of Siam into unified Thai nation. In the south, however, Bangkok managed dissidence mostly by leaving the Muslims alone. But later in 1938, a policy of enforced assimilation of the various minorities cultures into the mainstream “Thai-ness” provoked the emergence of a separatist movement fighting for an independent Pattani, and in 1963 there were violent clashes between insurgents and the security forces.

    In order to maintain ethnic identities, Muslims send their children to private Islamic schools in which some are beyond official supervision. These schools are funded by private donations and in many cases founded by teachers (ustaz) who themselves have done religious studies in Pakistan and the Middle East. These schools thereby contributed to the growth of more orthodox and radical versions of Islam, such as the Wahhabi and fundamentalist Islam. Politically radical young ustaz and their students became protagonists of the movement of Umna-ism in Southern Thailand. This resulted in an expanded pool of disconnected youth that became prime target for recruitment by the extremists.

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Faculty of Political Science, Pattani Academic Region of Songkla Nakarin University, Pattani


  • Institute of Public Policy Studies (IPPS) and Faculty of Political Science
    • Pattani Academic Region of Songkla Nakarin University
      • Pattani

        Dr. Lars Peter Schmidt †

        Resident Representative to India


        Provided by

        Thailand Office