Defiant maker of ‘Patani Colonial Territory’ game will launch it despite controversy

Mariyam Ahmad
2022.12.02
Pattani, Thailand
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Defiant maker of ‘Patani Colonial Territory’ game will launch it despite controversy Thai military and police officers arrive at Life Coffee Slow Bar in Bannang Sata district in Yala province before confiscating game sets, Nov. 28, 2022.
Courtesy of Arifin Soh

The creator of a controversial board game that depicts the Thai Deep South’s past is defiantly going ahead with a tournament to introduce it to the public this weekend, saying he created it to educate people about the region’s history.

Security officers earlier this week confiscated a few sets of the game called Patani Colonial Territory, after watching players at a café in Yala, one of the provinces in the heavily militarized southern border region. Officials described the game as a possible threat to Thailand’s national security.

“On Dec. 3, we will launch the game in Yala, and we will go on with the plan,” Arifin Soh, a member of the activist group The Patani, who co-created the game, told BenarNews on Friday. The Patani is a group that promotes self-determination for the ethnic Malay majority in the insurgency-stricken Deep South.

“I don’t care if the police arrest us. We don’t do anything wrong,” he said, adding that he spoke with the military on Friday and expects officials to observe the tournament at the Hooman Café.

Arifin said the inaugural competition and official launch of the game would feature three prizes but did not say what they are.

The game consists of a deck of 52 cards listing the history of the Deep South, including the 1909 annexation of Patani Darussalam by Siam, the former name of Thailand. It requires the players to put in order the chronology of the events or read the contents to share with other players.

Military officials and an academic questioned the accuracy of some of the cards, adding that some details are misrepresented and could incite violence.

“For example, it says Malay prisoners of war were chained through their Achilles tendons [and forced] to dig the San Sab Canal in Bangkok has been long told in the Deep South. But studies found that was not the case,” Maj. Gen. Pramote Prom-in, the deputy commander for the Thai army in the southern region, said earlier this week.

“This is one of the unfounded, bitter history titbits they purportedly used to incite people against the nation.”

Since a separatist insurgency reignited in the Deep South in January 2004, at least 7,344 people have been killed and 13,641 injured in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to data updated through March 2022 by Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

The region along Thailand’s border with Malaysia encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces, and four districts of Songkhla province. 

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Thai authorities have expressed concern that information on “Patani​ Colonial​ Territory” game cards could incite violence, Nov. 28, 2022. [Courtesy of Arifin Soh]
A group known as Chachiluk Board Game developed 50 prototypes after receiving 20,000 baht (U.S. $576) from the Progressive Movement Foundation, according to Arifin. The foundation is linked to the disbanded Future Forward Party which lost its status over allegations that its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had illegally donated election-related funds to the party.

“They simply want to hurt the progressive movement,” Arifin told BenarNews, referring to Pramote’s comments. “The game was warmly welcomed, so we produced more copies.”

On Monday, military and police officers watched Patani Colonial Territory being played at the Life Coffee Slow Bar in Bannang Sata, a district in Yala, before confiscating copies of the game. Officials claimed “the texts and pictures on the cards are likely breaching certain laws.”

On Friday, a detective said authorities had not determined whether any laws were broken.

“We police see the game as something that can be played, but we are conducting insightful investigation into the historical contents and whether it posts security threat,” the Bannang Sata police detective told BenarNews on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work.

Meanwhile, Col. Kiatisak Neewong, a spokesman for ISOC-4, the military command for the Deep South, warned that players must not break the law.

The developers said the game was created to help people understand the history of Patani and Siam, according to the Chachiluk Board Game Facebook page. The historical titbits and tales from local people are included to make learning fun and to create an open forum for people to discuss that history.

“We used this name because we want to do our duty to bring fun and to serve as a media to make people know of the history of Patani through a fun board game,” Arifin told BenarNews.

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