South Thailand: Investing in Hope and Participation

Spike in violence in Thailand's Muslim-majority south has left thousands dead across the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, which were annexed more than a century ago by Thailand. About 6,000 people have perished, the majority civilians, since 2004.

I had the opportunity to speak to a 27-year old woman "Nik", born in Narathiwat, and works in the conflict-ravaged "deep south" (ThaiSouth) region. Before the interview, she asked for anonymity, fearing repercussion.

Full transcript:

Asalaam mualaikum. First off, do you think the violence is growing in the ThaiSouth?

Waalaikumsalaam abang Zash. The violence is becoming more aggressive. Sometimes, it happen for the purpose of revenge. Attack their opponents. Because of this, it caused the loss of life of innocent people. Many children, students, women and orang tua (elders, in Bahasa Melayu). The violence has not only cause the loss of life but also damages (to) the properties. The orphans and suicide rate due to anxiety are our concern as the most significant problem to our society. It causes the problem to be hard to be solved.

Do you think the regular violence affects the junta?

I think (these attacks) don't directly affect the government authority. In some situation it is seems to be several hidden parties attacking each other which creates the confusion and difficulties in order to control the violence.

How has the violence affected you and your family?

Very closely. My cousins died because of the violence. Besides that, the awareness and anxiety regarding security becomes the big concern in my life. We must always be aware because the risks are everywhere and could happen any time with no warning signs.

Do you think the Thai government is helping build peace in ThaiSouth? 

I believe that the government does something in reducing the aggression of the violence through several efforts. Giving aid to victims or family of the victims, building the sense of love and care, and the sense if belonging among religious and cultural differences.

Oh I see. Is that the Thai government or the provincial authority?

The province authority here.

So the Narathiwat authority is helping the victims and their families. What other problems affect the communities? 

The government is struggling to give help by focusing on employment issues. Jobless is a big problem. No one wants to be unemployed. Then we have a drug problem here. It remained unsolved in this southern part of Thailand. Some people say that addiction can be the first step to more problems. The government should give importance to this issue.

Do you think the Muslim community is sympathetic and supportive of Barisan Revolusi Nasional? The militants?

My opinion is neutral. There are some who believe that supporting BRN militant is a must for them. Some do not support while some others are at (a) neutral opinion as mine. Those who support might hope to get benefits or have some interests from that (BRN/militants).

Do you think if the government creates a limited-autonomy in ThaiSouth, that this would reduce the violence? Something like, say a governance system similar to Bangkok, where people can vote their choice of governor.

Giving such here is possible, to reduce violence but only at certain levels. Many locals believe that "Nobody best understand us except our own people". [she laughs]

I think of having mutual understanding under the mutual faith and belief framework will be established if we have autonomy. This is good.

I define belia (youths) by the age of 15-24. How can young people help reduce the violence and work towards peace?

Remaja (teenagers). Young adults. They could reduce (the) violence. Being good members of family and good members of their communities. This should be encouraged. The young people should bare in mind that they are valuable as part of society. Which contribute the goodness and benefits to societies as a whole. Holding a good sense would motivate and remind themselves not to involve with bad things such as drug, and gambling. 

They should also be good examples to the younger generations. Besides, having aspirations to be educated person could push a person to be knowledgeable and literate.

What type of support do they need to achieve this?

Government must give chances to them. Its a two way street, we must listen so we understand their issues.

When you get married, would you want to raise a family in ThaiSouth? Or would you prefer to be elsewhere in Thailand?

Many people move their families to other places but I wouldn't want to because I want to spend my entire life with my family at the place where my family and I were born.

Have you thought of migrating (leaving Thailand) to find better work and move to a different country?

No, I have not thought to do so. Migrating to other countries, very far from my idea.

Is poverty growing in the rural and urban parts of ThaiSouth?

Poverty is one of the significant factors to create the violence. 

Why?

This is because when people are jobless and poor, they would struggle to do everything to support their life and family. It is even worst when they do not care, even involving themselves to evil acts.


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