Thailand Must Do More To End Bloodshed in Deep South: NGO Leader

BenarNews Staff
160108-TH-deep-south-620 Volunteers in southern Thailand’s Pattani province train in July 2015 to use weapons to protect their village.

The death toll from the insurgency in Thailand’s Deep South last year was at its lowest since 2004, but the killings won’t end unless the government is serious about pursuing peace talks, says the head of an NGO that published those numbers.

“The government’s long-term efforts to solve the problem must include a serious push for a peace dialogue,” Deep South Watch Director Srisompob Jitpiromsri told BenarNews. “At the same time, it must make justice prevail in the Deep South. It must guarantee fair justice in order to regain peace.”

“Though the situation gets better, there still are problems of rights abuse and torture,” he added. “The government must prevent those from happening to solve the problems for good.”

On Monday, Deep South Watch published statistics showing that the death toll fell to 246 in 2015, an all-time low during the previous 11 years of the separatist conflict in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking southern border region. The number of people injured in related violence, 544, also represented a record-low since 2004.

According to DSW, 6,543 people have been killed and 11,919 injured since Jan. 4, 2004, a date that marked a watershed moment in the Deep South’s long-running conflict.

For violence in the region to cease altogether, Thailand’s military-controlled government must listen carefully to demands made by MARA Patani, Srisompob said.

MARA is an umbrella group that has been representing various southern rebel groups and factions as a united front in back-door negotiations with Thai officials since last year. The efforts have been aimed at resuming formal peace talks with Thailand for the first time since December 2013, when a civilian-led government was in power in Bangkok.

According to Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong, the secretary of Thailand’s negotiating team, the Thai side has considered all of the rebels demands, including placing the issue of peace talks on the national agenda and guaranteeing immunity from prosecution for members of the MARA Patani delegation.

“We need to look at the pros and cons and consequences if we agree to certain conditions,” Nakrob told BenarNews.

The junta has also implemented policies to improve the criminal justice system in the far south, he said.

“We have revised the judicial system in the south to make it more efficient and to allow all to have access to it. We did this in line with the peace-talk process because we know it is a significant issue,” Nakrob said in a phone interview.

“Justice for all is part of our three proposals. If they accept this, we can work together. At the moment, they haven’t accepted ours – the proposal on justice for all,” he said of MARA Patani.

Education will help curb violence: academic

The number of fatalities and injuries from regional violence were relatively low in 2015 because of a combination of efforts by and cooperation among governmental agencies, civil society groups and religious figures, according to Sombat Yothathip, an assistant professor at Yala Rajabhat University.

“Everyone involved felt that the longer the problem exists, the more it would hurt education, social issues, economy and religion. Therefore, all parties joined hands to denounce violence, and those responsible for violence would be shunned,” he told BenarNews.

“Everyone in Deep South wants peace. And the solution to the problem is giving individuals education. When they are educated, they will have logic and reasoning. Problems will subside and peaceful Deep South is not out of reach,” he added. “The trend will be better.”

‘Not peaceful yet’

Some residents of the Deep South, however, were not impressed by the statistics.

Despite the reduction in violence, life is still a hardship for people in the region, said Yala province resident Isma-ae Awae-lo.

“If you genuinely ask locals like me, I would sincerely say that the situation is not peaceful yet,” he told BenarNews. “Peace in locals’ definition is not only about subsided violence, but it means we can live a normal life.”


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