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Non – Violent Policy on Conflict Resolution

Chidchanok Rahimmula
Prince of Songkla University , Thailand


1. Prologue

          This article aims at creating platform for exchanging experiences in dealing with conflict through peaceful means. This is by addressing the case of Thailand which is, presently, at the beginning stage of the process of implementing non-violent or peaceful conflict resolution. This policy, however, is not only being implemented in the country of Thailand but also through co-operating with neighboring countries especially Malaysia and Mynmar and by expecting peaceful condition along the borders of the two nations which will, then, lead to sustainable peace and economic and quality of life development among the people along the bordering lines of the above countries. Besides, Thailand is still expecting to be the center of peace and non-violent conflict resolution which it has ever been successful in managing violence and political unrest which involved national security in the past. This may be a good example for neighboring nations which are presently encountering the above difficulties.



2. Non - Violent strategy for national security

          The Institute of Non-Violent Strategy, the Office of the National Security Council of Thailand had analyzed the changing situation of Thai society and the world which contributed to complicated patterns and factors of violence. This is, then, in need of

          developing thinking approach and new conflict resolution to be in line with the changing situations as follows :


          1. Violence at national level (Thai society)

              Violence at this level is now changing significantly in 4 dimensions;
             1.1 The number of violence increase due to the increasing number of population in the region.
             1.2 The nature of violence becomes more complicated because of the nature of the problems which are normally in close connection with natural resources or the construction of big project. These are, of course closely related to the problem of poverty (e.g. Trans-Thailand-Malaysia Pipeline (TTM), Gas Seperation Plants (GSP) and the case of Pakmun Dam). In addition, some problem are related to politics of identity which finally produce ethnic discrimination among the people in the nation (e.g. The case of discrimination between Hill tribe people and low land people).
             1.3 In some cases, degree of violence seem to increase as results of inappropriate approaches used for encountering violence itself. For example, violence against demonstrators or sending troops to threaten the people while government officials are sometimes attacked.
             1.4 The opening of the society contributed to the level of perception and the need for participation increases among the people from merely submitting to the authority to being more active in participating in political sphere. As a result, they challenge the government through different modes and means which may not be easily understood or familiar by some government officials which finally contribute to the confusion that lead to severe violence.


          2. Changing at Global level

             Terrorist attack and reaction against terrorism were the result of global injustice which encountered by some nations. This problem is closely related to the problem of the limit of world resources and the lack of appropriate prosperity management of the world. Oppression caused by the mentioned injustice help contribute marginal people which were made hopeless and push them to find ways and means to convey their unhappiness. The significant changes of the situation is related to the problem of the world conflict and violence in 3 aspects as follows:

             2.1 Conflict in the country between those who are unhappy with certain issues reflected in the form of higher degree of conflict with their own government by connecting their internal problem within their group with the problem of global management of the so-called superpower and multinational companies.

             2.2 Violence becomes the tool to convey their feeling of unhappiness and reflected their anger and hatred against those who are of different ethnic and culture.

              2.3 Terrorism and methods of reaction against terrorism through violence which affected lives and properties of the innocents created unusual circumstance of the world. Conflicts and violence occurred throughout the globe in higher degree contributed meaningfully to the value of being democratic society, especially the importance of right and freedom were decreased.
          From the two level of changes mentioned above in order to sustain society and peace in the nation by changing the situation by not allowing conflicts among people in the nation which are resulted by problems occurred in Thai and world societies gradually change into violence. The Office of the National Security Council has suggested to the Prime Minister, then, to specify non-violent national strategy. This is to be direction for the nation to overcome conflicts both inside and outside the country by assigning the Office of the National Security Council to take main responsibility in propagating peaceful approach, studying, analyzing and suggesting the most suitable approaches to overcome conflicts by using peaceful methods to be in line with the nature of Thai society. Moreover, to infuse peaceful approach into the mind of Thai nationals. More importantly, to pave the way for the nation to be the center of peaceful approach in the region. Finally, there has been a notice of the Office of the Prime Minister ref. 187/2003 entitled: The Policy of Non-Violent Conflict Resolution dated on September 1, 2003 during this current government by underlining the following objectives :
             - To standardize conflict resolution for Thai community by introducing new conditions for public sector to change ways of thinking and working process.
             - To revitalize trust between government and the people which will pave the way for the roles of the public sector and the people by acknowledging each other and not creating fractions among them.
             - To move out hatred or bad feeling among the people in Thai community which might be the direct or indirect results when conflicts spread and involved cultural differences or when ways of life are valued differently.
          The above conflict resolution policy is upon all public sectors especially those with significant roles in dealing with conflict resolution, especially Police force and Armed force.


          3. Possibilities of implementing non-violent conflict resolution

              3.1 National level (Thai society)

The implementation of peaceful approach of the Office of National Security Council in the past since 1999 until now could be summarized as follows:

                  3.1.1 There has been effort of spreading both concept and knowledge of peaceful approach as standpoint and direction of society e.g. lectures in public institution including armies, police and administrative staff especially those officers who encounter conflicts directly in their daily works in order to reduce conflicts as well as prevent violence. However, mostly every time conflicts which occurred in Thai society were reacted violently such as operation against demonstrators of Trans-Thailand-Malaysia pipeline (TTM), Gas Separation Plants (GSP)in front of JB Hotel, Hat Yai, Songkla Province when joint meeting was held at the beginning of this year 2003 or when the incident of shooting the police in several areas of southern Thailand during last October, 2003 which is still unknown of who committed the crime whether by terrorists or it is only a normal crime. However, there has been saying of a kind of power under Martial law which may be brought to be implemented again in Southern Thailand.
                 It seems as if these who are related to and responsible for conflict resolution are not yet familiar with peaceful approach and this type of resolution may be at the final level of their instinct when countering problems of conflicts.

                3.1.2 Academic publication e.g. “Peaceful Means: National Strategy for sustainable society” and translation of the Constitution of the Royal Kingdom of Thailand (1997) into Malay language in order to create satisfactory feeling among the Muslims to read their national Constitution in their own mother tongue. This is, in fact, one of the strategy of solving the problem of ethnic differences in Southern Thailand. Moreover, the project of propagating the constitution in the community by conducting lectures in relation to people’ rights, responsibilities and constitutional coverage for the people in the nation regardless their gender or ethnic group which will be under equal protections of the same Constitutional Law. This is also to educate and provide them alternative of utilizing the constitution as their political tool rather than using arms or violence in overcoming their unhappiness. However, when one of the ulama (Tuan guru), his son and a doctor in Narathiwat province were arrested by the police on June 10, 2003 according to the foreign report to the Thai Government stating that the three mentioned personalities were members of terrorist group namely Jamaah Islamiah (JI). During that particular movement, the author has been assigned by the National Security Council to be responsible for propagating constitution to community met the direct result when the people would not turn out to participate as ever before because they were afraid of being accused by the police as being member of terrorist group called J.I. They said that by knowing the constitution will not help them anything because the government trust foreign information much more than the Constitutional law Article 4 which says “the Dignity of man, right and freedom of man must be protected”. This incident directly resulted difficulties for non-violent policy to be implemented in order to recover trust between the state and the people. This is because there was dissatisfactory motions among Muslims in Thailand of arresting their three respected personalities. This also shows that reaction against terrorism of the superpower has resulted conflicts in Thai society unexpectedly.

                 3.1.3 Suggestion for the government to announce its standpoint on peaceful conflict resolution. The most significance one is to recover mutual trust which is being reduced in Thai society especially between the public sector and the people by underlining frameworks of mutual relations between the state and the people. This is to prevent off-siding action and reaction of both parties which may finally lead to violence. It should be done also through emphasizing value system which focus on cultural differences and diversities as significant foundation of Thai society. However, the atmosphere of the present society seems to be under the strong state which three may not be a room for having different way of thinking from the powerful leader. This can be seen through the last APEC Meeting during 20-21 October 2003 which specifying and framing different groups of demonstrators to voice out or demonstrate only in a provided area just to avoid then from being seen, noticed and witnessed by foreign guess in show nice image of the nation. Furthermore, the mass media were asked not to present and broadcast news concerning demonstrations which took place during APEC Meeting. In short, this shows that can the idea of accepting others’ idea be really accepted and implemented in this society?


             3.2 Global level

                  Expectation of making the country to be the center of peaceful conflict resolution in the region can be analyzed in the present realm of its possibilities as follows:

                  3.2.1 Thailand used to be successful in dealing with conflict resolution as regard to security issues in the pass for example :
                         - Peaceful means for solving the problem of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) since 1982 and succeeded in 1989 by using negotiation in order to transform from violence to more democratic means. This is one of the strategies which pave the way for members of Communist Party of Malaysia to stop fighting and finally surrender.

                         - The using of the same means with the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) and also by adding Government order 66/23 or “Policy to win the communists” by accepting Members of Communist Party to be members of “Thai National Development Front”. This policy of accepting enemy to be friend can be regarded as the best political strategy.

                        - The undertaking of the problem of the Separatist and Terrorist Movement in Southern Thailand such as PULO and BRN is also one of the success of peaceful conflict resolution. This is by conducting several meetings and dialogues with their leaders in order to reduce violent thinking among their members. However, it is aimed at stopping fighting because the nature of this problem is different from the two communist oriented movements. The main objective is to reduce violence in their struggles. Furthermore, Thai government has tried paralelly through developing education, economic and providing equal opportunities for the Muslims in Southern Thailand at par with any other ethnic groups in order to be able to live together in peace.

                         From experiences of solving conflicts in relation to the mentioned security issues help contribute the government to realize that Thailand is possibly able to be the center of Peace in the region by collectively exchanging experiences with other nations. However, due to global political changes that take place at the present moment, Thailand is no exception from other neighboring nations with the announcement of the President Bush’s statement of cleansing terrorism from the world and those who do not co-operate with the US are against the US. This puts Thailand in a critical and difficult situation. Foreign policy of the country should be, then, in line with the US foreign policy in order to protect good relations with the US and also national interests and advantages. At the same time, however, it should not also be too close with the US because it will create tension with enemies of the US and this will, then, put Thailand in a risky condition for terrorist reactions. This is the difficulty which is nearly impossible for being peaceful nation and implementing peace oriented policy with neighboring nations including Asian nations.

                3.2.2 The success of using cultural and peaceful dimension in co-operating and developing lifestyles of the community along the marginal lines of neighboring nations. Regarding this the Prime Minster has approved the Strategy of Border Security to be concerned with creating good relations with the neighbors especially Mynmar by clearly stating peaceful direction to live together with Mynmar, searching the appropriate means to convey heartfelt sincerity towards Mynmar as neighboring nation which is willing to see peaceful Mynmar. This can be also through developing communities along the bordering line such as the problem of poverty, the issue of safety life, and the valuable jobs. This development must be done in line with local way of life by trying to understand cultural dimension in developing good relations in order to produce better and mutual co-operation between the two nations. This can be also through having or possessing positive perception towards each other and reducing negative and bad perception of the past towards each other. The government agreed to choose the Project of developing “Doitung” as the model for community development along Mynmar border. The most significant condition is, however, not to confuse the involved parties concerned by implementing reversive means or two-way signals which may not be understood and finally create confusions that can lead to conflicts.

                 Non-violent policy which will be co-operatively undertaken by Thailand and Mynmar is one of the most difficult piece of peaceful mission. This is due to the fact that the two countries used to be involved in many conflicts that led to tensions between the two parties. This is especially the case of Shan State Army (SSA) which the government of Mynmar government felt as if Thai government is offering hands to help the SSA to fight against Mynmar troops. According to the dangerous of drugs , Thai Army ask SSA to help and co-operate with its national operation against drug production and trafficking. If the SSA can capture drugs and drug traffickers they can exchange with weapons and food from Thai army. The Thai Army co-operate with SSA due to the National Strategic Plan of the Royal Thai Army for its overall operations including production areas outside the nation, prevention along the bordering line and also curing those drug addicts nation- wide4.

                 In other case, there has been fighting between Mynmar troops and minority group along western border of Thailand. Mynmar troops entered Thai territory during their fighting and Thai troops have to push them out in June 2002. This issue was not the clash between Thai and Mynmar but it resulted national conflict within the country of Thailand. This is because of Prime Minister wanted Thailand to be “neutral” in this case and to regard that problem as normal fighting in Mynmar and accused the 3rd Army Area as over reaction against the issue.

                 Thailand continousely face the problem of what is the right policy concerning minority groups along Mynmar border between the one initiated by the army and the other proposed for national diplomatic or foreign policy. There has ever been once when Armed Force policy is led to one way while foreign policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pushed in different way. Sometimes, amids political crowd and complicated national interest at that particular bordering lines the national policy is led to a different way.

                However, the Prime Minister Thaksin stresses that all national policies must be coherent and united. It should be implemented in form of unity by putting national interest above all everything. Personal or group interests should be removed from the process of making national policy towards neighboring countries. And if this can be done well the noble task of non-violent means to live together with Mynmar will be in a better and clear direction.


3. Conclusion and Suggestion
          Peaceful approach may be newly security innovation concept on security for Thailand. It may need more time to educate all related organizations and produce thinkers in this field. Experiences in peaceful conflict resolution of each and every nation may be exchanged both inside and outside the region. This should involve all levels of the societies and not merely the exchange of thought of thinkers in the academic sphere only.
          Conflicts in the present day world has increased severely and mostly related to ethnicity and religion at both national and global levels. However, the announcing statement of superpower to oppose Terrorism may create new type of cold war which create a battle field between Western world on one side and Muslim world on the other. The writer wishes to share experience in International Visitor projects in the US during July-August 2003 when attending seminar with Boston Mobilization, a group which was against “war on Iraq”. This group told me that if I have opportunity to conduct meeting with the Muslims who are against war in Asia let them know that “Westerners are also against war and violence as well. Do not discriminate between Westerners and Muslims but the discrimination should be between “supporters of violence and Protectors of violence” because it will reduce the sharpness of ethnic and religion conflicts.
          Nonviolent strategy can be build if it is based on the removal of negative feeling or hatred in all levels of societies and not letting hatred to develop into unexpected violence.


1. Non-violent Conflict Resulution documents.
2. The Notice of the Office of the Prime Minister No. 187/2003
3. Siamrath Supdawijarn
4. Nation Sudsupda


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