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Peace talks between the Thai government and Patani nationalists led by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) drags on with no breakthrough in sight. The fundamental disconnect impacting the peace process is the Dichotomy of Context between the two sides. The Thai government views the dialogue process as a way to rein in and disarm wayward “Thai Muslim Separatists” and to persuade the Patani Malay populace to accept Thai rule albeit with some administrative and cultural concessions. On the other hand, Patani nationalists regard the process as a step towards self-determination in their own land with the ultimate objective of regaining independence and the re-establishment of a Malay Muslim nation state.

After the initial rounds of dialogue coordinated and hosted by Malaysia, the Patani nationalists have hardened their stance, with a series of demands set as preconditions for further talks. These include Thailand’s recognition of the distinct identity, race and language of the Patani Malays; withdrawal of Thai troops from the restive region; peacekeeping duties to be conducted by local security forces; and amnesty for insurgents.

Additional conditions announced in early September 2013 include explicit Thai recognition of the BRN as liberators and not separatists; Malaysia's role to be upgraded from facilitator to mediator; presence of observers from ASEAN, the OIC and relevant NGOs during the dialogue process; a special administrative platform be set up under the Thai constitution; and the unconditional release of all detained suspects or imprisoned insurgents. BRN also sought guarantees for the Patani Malays’ freedom to practice Islam, seek education, conduct business, as well as to remain free from harassment.

Would the Thai state accede to these demands? Would even a partial concession be possible? Is there sufficient political will in Bangkok? What about the influential Thai military? Would Thailand gain from a softer negotiating posture? Could it afford further violence and bloodshed in its soft underbelly? Would these concessions bring peace and a semblance of normalcy to the Patani Region? Could the civilian government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra push the dialogue process to the next level? Who actually decides for Thailand? What more must be done? What is the end game?

Get the book to find out.


Patani: Behind The Accidental Border
2nd Edition. The Search for Elusive Peace


The insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, collectively defined as the Patani Region, is the most misunderstood conflict in the world today. In relative terms, the toll on human lives over the past half decade is surpassed only by the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts. But unlike those well-reported hotspots, very little is known about the Patani insurgency – its root causes; the identity and objectives of the main players; the historical context; the role and legitimacy of the Thai state; the sentiment of the populace – and this multifaceted ignorance sustains the ongoing socio-political tragedy. The insurgency has been vividly painted by many as a religious conflict perpetrated by misguided “Thai Muslims,” effectively calibrating all discourses towards a Pan-Islamist terrorism agenda.

This is further embellished by tales of economic backwardness due to lack of educational and vocational opportunities. The combination of religious zealotry and abject poverty are supposed to be the main catalysts of the insurgency and this narrative has largely shaped world perception, with policy initiatives geared towards economic development, scholastic reforms and inculcation of “moderate” Islamic teachings among the Patani people. These programmes come and go but the insurgency rages on with heightened intensity and brutality in a region also known cryptically as the Thai Deep South. Why is this the case? Who are the real stakeholders? What would be the end game? And could we resolve this conflict without a firm understanding of its root causes?

Together we shall seek the answers. This book will provide a definitive analysis of the insurgency in a region that was a prominent Malay Sultanate for a half-millennium but now tethered precariously to the southern underbelly of the Thai nation. Necessary attention will be given to its historical dimension and current regional geopolitical context and realities. This may dilute the conventional narrative meticulously crafted by others, and the revelations may be unpalatable to some. But without the historical truth and a firm grasp of the real issues, a just, meaningful and permanent solution could never be conceived. The detailed processes and methodologies of the Pattani Peace Initiative presented in this book would hopefully form the building blocks for sustainable peace, justice and reconciliation for the Patani Region.

Read it online now in full colour PDF e-Book format

Price: USD 34.95

Hardcover coffee table edition (250 pages, with 100 full colour maps and pictures) available by special request.


RM 189.00 Malaysia

THB 1,900 Thailand

SGD 89.00 Singapore

USD 69.00 Worldwide

To pre-order and/or discuss other payment options in your currency, send e-mail to patanibook@gmail.com

Date and Time in Patani Darussalam



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thai Ratthaniyom: Erasure of the Patani Malay Race

Book Excerpt
(Protected by Copyright. Quotations and reproductions subject to approval and written permission of the Author):-

Phibun Songkhram (birthname Plaek Khittasangkha), an Army Lieut. Colonel and key conspirator in the Siamese coup d'état of 1932 (who later promoted himself to Field Marshall) became Siam’s Prime Minister in late 1938. Holding on to the posts of Defense and Interior Ministers as well, Phibun consolidated power by sidelining all rivals (either killed, jailed or banished) and ruled Siam with an iron fist. A rabid fascist with a strong admiration of the Axis Powers of the 1930s, Phibun pursued the cause of Siamese nationalism to its traumatic extreme. Siam was renamed Prathet Thai (ประเทศไทย) or Thailand. Thai (ไทย), meaning “free” is a play of the homonym for the T’ai ( ไท ) ethnic group, which in its various incarnations made up the majority of Siam’s population. Hence, Thailand means Land of the Free, but metaphorically it is the Land of the T’ais.

Phibun was bent on creating a homogenized, socially cohesive populace in a unitary state guided by Central Chao Phraya T’ai culture and Theravada Buddhism. This quest for racial and cultural purity a la Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was embodied in Phibun’s infamous Thai Ratthaniyom or Thai Custom Decree of 1939. This policy subsumed inhabitants of incorporated territories (Malays, Khmers, Lao, Shan, Mon) into the “Thai” ethno-cultural yolk and forcibly assimilated Thailand’s substantial immigrant Chinese population. Phibun’s Thai Ratthaniyom shook the foundation of the Patani Malay world. Apart from being forced to become “Thais,” the Malays were also compelled by law to shed their traditional clothing for Western attire. In a real-life theatre of the absurd, previously sarong-clad Malay peasants sported Dick Tracy hats and ill-fitting Fred Astaire suits and pants while the womenfolk stumbled in their gowns, skirts and hats while laden with other accouterments of Western civilization. Meals must be consumed with western utensils while seated on tables. Chewing of betel nut was a national crime.

Thai cultural police roamed the nation, striking errant citizens with 10-foot bamboo sticks with impunity. The Malay clergy (the tok guru, imam and ustadz) were particularly targeted. Their insistence on donning traditional garbs were met with violent chastisement by Thai authorities, including the public shedding and stomping of their garments by the culture police. The Malays wondered why this ruling was not applied to Buddhist monks as well; why tolerate the robes and slippers (if any) while compelling the Islamic clergy to forego their robes and sarongs and semutars? These cultural and social dichotomy afflict Thailand’s administration of the Malay provinces until today and cannot be reconciled by a state that refused to admit Thailand’s pluralistic reality, where large populations in different regions are distinct from the archetypal T’ai of the Central Chao Phraya.

State-Decreed Dress Code

A Thai Ratthaniyom era (1938-45) poster directs the Thai public on the “civilized” form of dressing. A laid-back Patani Malay man in traditional songkok and sarong (far right of left picture) is transformed into a dapper chap in crisp pantaloon, shirt and safari hat. Womenfolk attend to their daily chores in glitzy blouses and skirts while a boy (previously depicted buck naked now scurry along in Western garb straight out of a Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue.

Photo: Public Domain per Section 4 of the Thai Copyright Law, 1994.

This institutionalized assimilation also regulated personal names and systematically Thai-cised the age-old Malay geographic names of the Patani Region. Hence Jalor, Menara, Singgora, Tanjong Mas, Sebayu, Gersik, Tiba, Setul, Bendang Setar, Tabal and Penarek (all perfectly lucid Malay place names) were bizarrely transliterated as Yala, Narathiwat, Songkhla, Tanyongmat, Sabayoi, Krue Sae, Thepa, Satun, Bannang Sata, Tak Bai and Panare, rendering the names meaningless and hilariously absurd to the Malays and reflected the inherent elocution limitations of the Thai pali script. Thai names became a condition for public employment. During the height of the Ratthaniyom era, Malays were forced by Thai forces to prostrate before Buddhist sacred objects in national events. In all public schools, Buddha statues were prominently displayed, and Malay Muslim students were forced to bow to them as a patriotic act. Malay language and script were strictly banned in government affairs and public usage. Malay culture was suppressed. Shari’a law and its court system were abolished. Traditional Malay and Islamic legal traditions on marriage and inheritance were supplanted by Thai civil jurisdiction. Patani history was erased and replaced with Thai-centric revisions laced with mythical heroic conquests of the Patani region by ancient T’ai kings through the ages. The term “Malay” became politically incorrect and was officially suppressed. “Thai” and Thai-ness were the epitome of patriotism.

Metamorphosies of the “Thai” race

Phibun Songkhram’s Thai Ratthaniyom (Thai Customs Decree) of 1939 enforced punitive assimilationist measures to compel ethno-cultural conformity and to subsume Siam’s plurality of ethnic groups into a concocted “Thai” race modelled on the T’ai ethnic group of the Chao Phraya River basin. “Thai” means “Free” and is actually a cunning play of the homonym for the dominant T’ai ethnic group. The Patani Malays, as the most divergent ethno-cultural and religious group, were particularly affected and resisted till this day the erasure and supplanting of their ethnicity with a generic “Thai Muslim” tag.

Copyright © 2008 Behind the Accidental Border. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproductions of this diagram strictly prohibited and subject to legal proceedings.

The Patani Malay race, hence, morphed into the conceptual community of “Thai Muslims” -– effectively placing the indigenous Patani Malays into the pot of immigrant Pakistani, Indian, Hadramaut Arab, Cham and Haw Chinese muslims languishing on the fringes of the mainstream “Thai” social order. The Malays became “foreign” on their own soil. Since “Malay” must be erased from the public consciousness, the Patani Malay dialect was referred as Yawi, which is nothing more than an ill-informed street Thai corruption of “Jawi,” the Arabic-based Malay script used in the Patani Region and Malaya. This would be equivalent to denoting the Russian language as Cyrillic (the Slavic script) and signifying the Thai language as Pali.

The devastating fallout of the Thai Ratthaniyom policy on the Patani Malays has almost no parallel in the contemporary global order. Hence, the societal impacts may be difficult to fathom. In the Western sense, the equivalent trauma would be for George Bush to suddenly wake up in newly renamed Washingrad, Washingburg or perhaps Wah Shing Tung; forcibly detached from his family by an arbitrary international frontier straddling the Potomac River (where the American way-of-life prevailed on the other side); compelled by law to change his name to Georgi Bushev or Joerg Busch or Chee Ok Bok; forbidden to write or speak English; and gets beaten by a 10-foot bamboo stick for not swapping his suit and tie for a kilt or perhaps a robe. The surrounding towns and place names on his side of the Potomac frontier assumed weird sounding foreign names and the police and government officials would converse with him in a foreign tongue not even remotely resembling English while they smack him with bamboo sticks each time he uttered an English word. Instead of being a WASP American, he would be told that his race no longer exist and he would be assimilated into the stylized ethnicity of the invader (in this parable, lets call them “Zoltrons”). To differentiate him from the real Zoltrons (lets assume they worship other deities), he would be termed a Zoltron Christian. Would George Bush – or any human being on earth – take these gross violations quietly? Wouldn’t any society rise up to stop this outrage? Didn’t the world endured two World Wars to stem this sort of menace by rogue regimes? Why should the Patani Malays be any different?

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