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The Five I of Deep South

                             Gothom Arya

 

          There are roughly three groups of actors in Deep South: government officials, Buddhist Thais and Melayu Muslim Thais. The main antagonism is vertical that is between officials and Muslims. But the conflict is basically identity conflict between the two populations.

          By ‘identity', I mean ethnic identity as identified by language, religion and culture. Two ethnic groups can live along side without hostility but rarely without tension or low-intensity conflict. The conflict can become intense or even violent if members of one group feel that their identity is being threatened, for instance, the teaching of their language is being restricted, their religious practice hampered in certain aspects, or their culture is devalued or being invaded by an alien culture. In the case of the three southernmost provinces of Thailand, this identity conflict has a long history so in a way the conflict is inherited.

          By ‘inheritance', I mean different narratives that two co-existing ethnic groups inherited from the past that are used to justify the attitude and behaviours in the present. The more divergent are the narratives, the greater the chance is that they will feed into the negative attitude and behaviours. In the case of the Deep South, the Thai narrative is that this part of the country has been in the sphere of influence since the times of Sukhothai and Ayudhaya. More recently during the Chakri dynasty, the land has become part of the kingdom and since Rama V, part of Siamese state. The events in the past century have been marred by treasons, insubordination and revolts that caused a lot of trouble to the state. In short, the land belongs to us and bad elements of Melayu community who were unhappy or were trouble makers would do better to go away without taking with them the land. However, in the Melayu narrative, these ‘trouble makers' were simply fighters for freedom and justice. The events were interpreted as violent suppression of legitimate demands for respect of identity and for justice. We have been children of the land since time immemorial and certainly before the time of Sukhothai. The land is under occupation and we should not be the ones to go away. This is a loaded inheritance that has a strong bearing on the present. The mutual accusation of historical distortion is not helpful. Without truth and reconciliation of the two narratives, it is difficult to make a therapy of the past for the benefit of a more harmonious future.

          There are many reasons why Satul, another southernmost province has always been more peaceful than the other three. One of them, worth mentioning here, is that it has been under the competent and understanding governorship of a native of the province namely

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