Can Barisan Revolusi Nasional be able to positively influence other splinter groups of warring militants in Southern Thailand?
On Feb 28, 2013, the government of Thailand signed an agreement with the insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in Kuala Lumpur, which was witnessed by senior members of Malaysia’s government. The agreement reaffirmed commitments on both sides towards dialogues and peace coordination.
The original BRN was established in the early 1960s as a leftist organisation advocating Islamic socialism and to fight for an independant Pattani state, but later split in the 1980s into three political factions: “Congress”, “Coordinate” and “Ulema”.
Today, “Congress” and “Ulema” are more or less defunct and BRN “Coordinate” is the main group active on the ground in the south.
The agreement is a historical achievement for Thailand, as the conflict in its deep southern provinces, namely Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, have taken high casualties. More than 5,000 people have been killed, untold sufferings, since militant assaults and assassinations on Thai targets have intensified in 2004.
The Thai government has asked BRN to stop hostility as a sign of good faith in preparation of the dialogues. That was almost three weeks ago. Violent occurs almost on a daily basis, as members of the Thai authorities are attacked and killed, along with low-ranking civil servants and civilians.
This brings about the question of whether BRN is able to positively influence other splinter groups of warring militants.
Based on the increase of violence, it’s also thought that BRN does not have direct links with smaller cell-based groups and perhaps that a minority of fundamental extremists would prefer to see the continuation of bloodshed.
Nevertheless, there are visible indicators that if the BRN-Thailand peace deal works out, then it would be for the best interest of the Thai people as a whole.
Securing peace with BRN may not reduce the violence committed by other groups, but it would surely strengthen the resolve of the civilians living in the three provinces.
Future cooperation must reflect the participation of civil society, Muslim and Buddhist community leaders, government and military to defeat random militant violence.
As it is, the Thai government has initiated a local TV segment in Bahasa Melayu, community-based educational and entrepreneurship programs and their Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has visited the south for consultation process with district heads and religious authorities.
Recently Malaysians have seen from the emergence of militancy of the Sulu in Sabah. Militancy is not easily subjugated nor eradicated solely by military might and technology.
Dialogues are a crucial element of peace, particularly in enabling a conducive environment for consultation and community-building.
As Thailand and the Philippines have learned from decades of conflicts with militancy, an eye for an eye makes the world go blind, so does the surge of body count.
***An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at zashnain.com and @bedlamfury