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Building Peace and People's Security in Southeast Asia PDF Print E-mail
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Building Peace and People's Security in Southeast Asia
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People: Human rights and Justice

The fact that government agencies view justice as something that can be bought has created a much painful situation in the case of Takbai. Until now, none of those who committed such mistake have been punished except the Chief of the 4th Army Region who was a transfer to an inactive position Bangkok. Although the Army insisted that his punishment was considered severe, they failed to make the villagers understand its meaning. The court itself has put pressure on the villagers who filed a legal suit against the Army for compensation. Finally each of them received only 200,000 to 300,000 Baht, which was not enough even for their economic improvement. Trauma healing for the victims and their relatives will not happen if the issue justice is not properly dealt with.

Problem solving for the deep-south depends very much on the national politics. Security authorities have tried many ways to work on it. Methods using violence, development and different types of reforms have been applied but proved ineffective due to obstacles from the national politics. One example is the disagreement on the NRC proposal to use Melayu language as a working language in the area.

The national politics of Thailand functions under two directions which are political reform and the tendency to interrupt it. Such tendency includes the promotion of nationalism, the reconstruction of military dictatorship system that bring back military approach to the area. Activists working on the deep-south issue are often discouraged as a result.

The law will not help solving problems as long as there is no acceptance from national politics on the identities of the locals, on justice problems and on the need to provide political space for the locals such as university student to peacefully conduct their activities. If such opportunity does not exist, people might go underground to join with the insurgency. They might die but heaven is waiting.

Certainly some younger-generation military officers are interested in these matters and are studying it closely. However, changes cannot happen if new thinking in politics does not start. It is impossible to solve the deep-south problem if Thai politics still functions under two outdated systems which are military dictatorship and parliamentary dictatorship.

Lesson and Experiences of NGOs
Since the emergence of the new round of violence on 4 April 2004, which was five years ago, Most NGOs working on human security and human rights have conducted activities in response to immediate problems and tried to establish knowledge and understanding on the emerging situation rather than long-term planning.As the situation is unlikely to end in a short period of time, NGO works should focus more on long-term problem solving that takes participation by local people as an important factor.

As for environmental groups, lessons learned from their works indicate that the improvement of natural resources does not mean improvement to make them back to their historical stage. Since development projects have destroyed natural resources and people’s traditional way of life, rehabilitation should focus on the attempt to enable to live with damaged environment and resources and to live in a changing condition. Rehabilitation should also be a way to find alternatives for their livelihood while trying reduce or stop future destruction.

Human rights groups and groups working to end the violence can learn from the Human Rights Watch’s experiences on condemning human rights violation against innocent citizens by both Thai state and non-state groups. Human rights Watch also seriously insists on human rights principles in criticizing human rights violation from all parties.

Alternative media reflects efforts by different groups to produce media that reveals thoughts, ideas and approaches in solving the problems. It also gives space to different interpretations and explanations on the situation, and prevents a certain type of explanation to dominate. It helps making the society able to understand the situation in a broader context.

Majority of groups on the field have no experience on orgainsation work. They began to learn about the importance of group orgainsation and networking. It is essential to increase their skills on group management, coordinating with other organisations, fund raising, project drafting, data collecting and reporting.

Working in Violent Conflict Situation:Principles and Theories

Works in the southern border provinces are conducted in a violent conflict situation. We must ensure that our work will not worsen the existing conflict and violence. Working experiences in similar situation have been gathered and combined as working principles on the international level such as the Do No Harm principle.

Activists working in the south should understand that violent conflict has destroyed lives and development. Some groups of people utilize and encourage conflict for their own political and personal gain. Violent conflict usually creates a lawless situation which benefits those who manipulate it - be it power groups, local and national influential groups or transnational drivers of conflict such as illegal weapon traders, drug dealers and natural resources brokers.

A report submitted to the government by the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) provides a framework for conflict resolution based on human security, peace and reconciliation approaches that create justice. The report also emphasizes that there must be a recognition to results of violence that takes away the voice of the victims and prevent the society to understand its structural causes, injustice and disrespect to human dignity. This would lead to the society’s blindness to political solution.

The NRC submitted its report to the Thai state that, at the same time, acted as an agent to create and expand the conflict. However, the report received very little attention from the state and state apparatus. The possible way to push for these solutions is through the civil society sector. Civil society groups must play a role in promoting the NRC recommendations and to put pressure for the Thai state to solve the problems on the basis of knowledge, justice and respect to human rights, human dignity.

Concepts of violence and critical peace

Critical peace expert Johan Galtung has categorized violence into two types namely direct violence and structural violence. According to him, it is the structure, not individuals, which is the root cause of violence. Cultural violence is the thoughts or beliefs that justify different types of violence, and allow the society to accept them as something good. Structural violence or social injustice is usually a cause of obvious violence, while cultural violence acts as a legitimizing factor to it. Different levels of violence have their own complexity. For example, Structural violence comes from inequality in economic and social powers. At the same time, “culture” of each society is neither static nor unified.

Researches and studies around the world point at income gap or gap of wealth between the rich and the poor as a major factor of violence in the society. Apart from structural violence that needed to be seriously considered, critical peace also questions ideologies that support such structure.

If we want to solve the problem of violence and create peace in the society, we may have to pay attention to different levels of violence rather than only direct violence conducted by individuals. We have to question social injustice which is a cause of violence as well as to the beliefs and ideologies that allow direct and structural violence to exist. Critical peace thinks about a remedy for “the decease of violence” by taking a critical look into social injustice, culture and beliefs that legitimize such structure, and then, pushing the society to chose a peaceful, just and non-violent means.

The fact that different societies relate to and affect each other makes them multidimensional and complex. It is difficult to explain problems in a society by using only one phenomenon. Incidents occur in one place in the interrelated world may give major impacts on the other places. As a result, several outdated social institutions are unable to deal with the complex and difficult of the new situations.

In the interconnected world, conflict between the West and the Muslim World emerge as a major problem to international stability and security. The results of this conflict could affect national politics as well as relationships between citizens who have different religious and cultural backgrounds.

Although today’s problem of the deep-south have a root dated back to hundreds years in history, there has been a dramatic change in its context under the influence of globalization and Islamization.

The concept of human security

The Human Security Framework, which was ratified at the Millennium Summit in New York in September 2000 and was synchronized from the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen and the World Conference on Women in Beijing, identifies freedom, equality, solidarity and common responsibility as basic values important for international relations in the 21st Century.

Human security declared by the “United Nation Millennium Declaration” means freedom from hunger and from disrespect to human rights and human dignity. In the world closer linked by information system and technology, human security is threatened by several factors including conflict, decease, oppression, gender discrimination and poverty. These have caused a complex relationship between existing problems that affect each other in a fast and severe manner.

The old security framework can no longer respond to these problems. The outdated state security framework, which limits itself within state territory and attempts to increase state power and state security to maintain peace and stability, is nothing but a protection over state mechanisms itself. Such state security only relates to the people living within its territory in an indirect manner. Moreover, it sometimes posts a threat to people’s security. Human security should, therefore, be the goal of state security since the main objective of the state is to provide security to its citizens.

Human security means a protection over basic freedom which is the essence of life. It means protecting people from threats of a crisis that has a tendency to expand itself. It means the utilization of a process created from people’s strength and inspiration. It also means the creation of a political, social, environmental, economic and military system, which, altogether, builds a foundation for the survival of life and human dignity. Human security concept emphasizes more on the attention to individual and community than to the state. It includes threats to individual and community as well as conditions that are not categorized as a threat to state security. There are several actors within this concept rather than merely the state.

The success of human security does not only mean the ability to protect people, but also the ability to strengthen people’s power so that they can protect themselves.

Realization of a common humanity

The concept of cultural diversity accepts different forms of behaviors of people from different backgrounds. The factor that seems to divide people from each other comes from the creation of complex and rigid interpretation of rituals which makes people fail to understand that cultures are created by ever changing human beings and finally lose the essence of “common humanity”.

The method to solve problems of the deep-south was initially an effort to suppress and destroy other cultures. Later, after a lesson was learned, an awareness to respect other cultures and to recognize cultural diversity and justice for all has emerged. However, the more substantial concept, which should be recognized by every party, is the concept of “common humanity”. This has also posted a question whether each culture can develop such concept within itself.

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Research Center for Peace Building (Old) Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University
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