With increasing violence between warring militants and military, south Thailand has not seen any evidence of peace.
More than 6,000 people have been killed, with countless injured, since a nationalist insurgency began, and the military-led repression in the region in 2004.
Recently Thai provincial officials say they have repealed the arrest warrants of twenty-two former suspected members of the separatist movement. This move, according to the authorities is to promote reconciliation during the holy month of Ramadan.
A local official Worachate Prom-opas urged militants to return to their families and “start new lives”. Khaosod English reports that former fugitives have surrendered, and allegedly, they favour peace.
“Chamnan Muendam, the deputy governor of Narathiwat, said the 22 men were wanted by authorities for their suspected connections to local insurgent groups that have been waging a violent campaign to secede the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani and form a breakaway Islamic state.”
The military regime has yet to reveal a comprehensive road-map on peace-building in the south. Social activists and community leaders view the lack of progress as a sign of uncertainty, or the very least that some officials are apathetic towards a solution for the local population.
The mass arrests and detention of Patani students has failed to restore confidence of justice within the socio-political hierarchy, not to mention the glaring absence of a sustainable economic plan.
Rampant poverty, colossal rubber plantations, isolated farms and neglected fishing villages dot the rough terrains of Patani, while violence and cases of harassment against civilians are common.
Rights-based social concerns, from education, healthcare, faith to the Patani ethnic identity, are still stuck in the pipeline. They have seen, and continue experiencing the failures of regimes unable, or unwilling, to fulfil the aspirations of the Patani community.
Peace is fundamentally important to the population, for Muslims and the minority Buddhists. However it will definitely take more than just repealing arrest warrants of suspects to build peace, especially when populations are made marginalized by the self-centred greater agenda of Bangkok and the ongoing conflict.
Self-determination, for one, and self-advocacy, needs to be nurtured in line with peace and respect.
Another aspect, which is the active participation of young people, needs to take place within the policy-making level. Youths have shown a great deal of empathy and advocacy in social justice, by rejecting indiscriminate detention of their peers to empowering others towards peace. Being leaders of today, they have the passion and foresight to bridge the challenges faced by a vulnerable society.