Patani Youths - Their Right to Have Their Views Taken Seriously


Community-based workshops. Often I wonder about the extended impact of specific-themed workshops for marginalized young people living in rural poverty or in conflict zones. Its complex, naturally, as measurement of success depends partly on behavioural change, particularly the long-term progression and how young people cope with other challenges associated with their lives.


In the course of my outreach, in Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, I've facilitated, observed and assisted young coordinators in such workshops. Young people are fond of focus-group discussions, especially when the itinerary is participatory in approach, and which (may) spearhead into future self-advocacy programs.

Sangkar Burung art by Free Voice
“Dalam keadaan yang gelap Patani masih ada kecantikkan yang banyak lagi seumpama sankar burung ini.”

On one such workshop, which was organized at a rural settlement in Kayu Khla district, of Narathiwat province, I found that youths have taken a leadership role within their kampung (village), despite the increasing poverty-associated problems that they face. The workshop was initially conceptualised by me, though greatly improved by ideas from belia (youths); to bring young people (between the age of 15-24) and adults (25 and above) together to explore the impact of conflict on their lives.


The steering committee, which comprised of five young volunteers (2 women, 3 men) and myself, invited four representatives from their village, that had been working on socio-economic development activities and security of the population. Ten young people (6 women, 4 men) were selected from poor families as participants of the focus group discussion, which was broken down to two groups (5 youths, 2 adult reps per group).

Despite preparatory information about the focus-group discussion's purpose given to the adults in advance, on arrival, only one was able to explain properly why they were there. Methods employed at the three-day session included group discussions and presentations. Only two youth participants found the presentations challenging to follow.

We learned that both young people and adults cannot be brought into the activity without a great deal of preparation and support. Coordination, mainly through outreach, with and by young people before the activity is crucial in preparing participants. 

As none of the youth coordinators had any experience in organizing focus group discussions, I imparted knowledge and skills via localised trainings and "on-the-job" exposure, which took nearly three months. These allowed them to understand the methodologies needed to address their approach with their peers and the adults. In fact, the planning was strengthened by feedbacks from youth coordinators. 

Issues, highlighted and to some extent debated among the steering group, was associated with finding interesting, time-scales need (youth-friendly) to reflect young people’s concentration spans, and simplified information (also avoiding the use of jargon, acronyms) to be provided in ways that they themselves can understand. Conducting the sessions in English or Thai (they referred the language as "Siam") was out of the question, as Jawi and Bahasa Melayu (with heavily-accented northern Malaysian slang) was the language of choice.


During the focus-group discussions, the participants made genuine contributions to the discussions, especially after the ice-breaker session. Though the "conflict" theme of the event was broadened, at the requests of the participants. Issues raised by young people were far removed from the thinking of many of the adults. For example, they identified problems related to disruption to education, lack of safe space for playing, fear of authority figures, painful personal histories, problems in the family nucleus and difficulties in search of employment. They added new and different dimensions to the discussions that would normally be disregarded by adult-managed institutionalised activities.

By bringing together young people, it was possible to exchange different perspectives about conflict and share expertise related to life skills (such as problem solving, decision making, communication). Participatory approaches are extremely helpful in not only the mobilization of young people but also to empower them about their rights.


Positive outcomes: young people felt empowered that they were genuine participants in the focus-group discussions and not merely offered a token opportunity to share their opinions. I felt exhilarated after the session when seven participants sought training for community outreach activities.

I look forward to sharing more information, and their diverse energy, with other youths in similar situation.

May there be peace in Patani.


Some articles that are related to the struggles and challenges faced by young people in the conflict-torn provinces of south Thailand, also acknowledged as Patani by the Muslim-majority population.

A Day After Martial Law Was Lifted, Patani Students Arrested in South Thailand (Global Voices, 2015):

Hundreds Rally for the Release of Students Detained in ThaiSouth (AK Rockefeller, 2015): 

A Call from ThaiSouth – The Voice of Desperation (AK Rockefeller, 2014):

Body Count: Children Killed in Thailand’s South (AK Rockefeller, 2012):

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