The conflict in the Deep South of Thailand stems from the colonial and post-colonial heritage of continental South-East Asia. It was strongly influenced by the rivalry between Great Britain and France in trying to win the Kingdom of Siam (the former name of Thailand) as their ally in the region. It affects the three southernmost provinces of Thailand (Pat(t)ani, Narathiwat and Yala) and a few districts of the neighbouring Songkla province, in which primarily Malay-speaking Muslims represent the vast majority of the population. The conflict has seen a series of violent clashes and suppression since the late 18th century, as well as phases of accommodation and compromise.
In 2004, the conflict re-escalated after successive governments had attempted to terminate it with strict law-and-order policies while branding the insurgents “bandits”. Since then, nearly 6,000 people have been killed and more than 10,000 injured or maimed. Now, the conflict between the Thai state and a group of resistance organisations and their sympathisers can best be described as an ethnopolitical conflict concerning the legitimacy of Thai rule in a disputed territory. While the conflict has yet to be acknowledged as an essentially “political conflict”, the creation of an official Track-1 peace dialogue process in February 2013 has opened new channels for conflict transformation, although the process is still very fragile.
The IPP project emphasises the need for joint reflexion, strategising and exploring new avenues for collaboration in order to make best use of the new opportunities arising from changes of government and shifting environments. During the last couple of years, a multiplicity of activities has been initiated to promote peace, many of them with impressive state budgets. The main focus has been on security- and development-related programmes and, more recently, on issues of transitional justice. The region has also experienced an increasing number of human rights and peacebuilding initiatives. They concentrate mostly on issues such as dialogue and capacity-building programmes, empowering marginalised communities, women and youth, enhancing the outreach and quality of local and alternative media, counselling victims of violence, and developing models of decentralised governance.
Aims & Outcomes
The IPP is the result of several years of work invested by some of the most active organisations and individuals engaged in peacebuilding in the region. Initially, the specific aim was to generate joint learning opportunities, to share experiences, apply analysis and strategy tools from various sources and to work towards a common understanding of how the peacebuilding community could become more effective and complementary. Now, several of the platform members have started new, sometimes joint initiatives to translate their insights into practical projects. Others have reviewed their approaches and have engaged in new programmes. The official Track-1 peace dialogue process begun in 2013 has additionally enhanced the need for a more systematic, multi-track engagement.
The Insider Peacebuilders Platform primarily addresses multipliers from different identity groups living in the Deep South as well as all Thai citizens with a vested interest in the region. Most of the participants are linked to civil society, state agencies, the business sector, academia, the media, religious institutions or political parties. They were invited so as to ensure a sufficient representation of diverse identity groups and political orientations (multi-partiality) in the overall platform. Currently, the platform team is also working to enhance the IPP’s vertical outreach to the official political dialogue (Track 1) and to the local leadership level (Track 3).