9 MONTHS INTO THE 9TH YEAR: Amidst the enigmatic violence, the Pa(t)tani Peace Process still keeps on moving

Srisompob Jitpiromsri
Deep South Watch
Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD),
Prince of Songkla University Pattani Campus
 
 
The protracted, chronic and intensifying violence
 
The unrest in the Deep South has reached its 105th month anniversary. From January 2004 to September 2012, there were a total of 12,377 violent events, resulting in 14,890 casualties (5,377 dead and 9,513 injured). The situation in 2012 had been on-going for 9 months. At present, it is widely acknowledged that the violence in the deep south has entered into the protracted state, and it seems quite clear that there have been attempts to make "qualitative violence" an evident truth, i.e. the frequency and intensity of violence would remain stable, while the quality of the violence, namely the number of casualties and the image of violence would increase and become more prominent.
 
From 2007 until recently, the frequency of violence had decreased from the initial level. However, from early 2012 onwards, it is noticeable that the pattern of southern violence has become ever more complex and intense. Thus during these first 9 months of 2012, there have been many shocking events and the number of events in certain months became very prominent peaks, such as the incidents in March which resulted in as many as 603 casualties in that particular month alone, while in August there were as many as 380 events of unrest. It could be said that the statistics in those two months had broken the monthly records for the entire period of 9 years and 9 months, i.e. from January 2004 to September 2012. The injury and death statistics in March 2012 was the highest record since 2004, while the frequency of unrest events in August 2004 was the highest since January 2004 onwards.
 
The prominence of the recent violence statistics reflects the higher "intensity level" of the situation in the Deep South, and could be the proof of the rise in the quality or magnitude of the violence and indicates the continuity of the inevitable state of prolonged/chronic violence in the Deep South.
 
 
 
 
 
The intense, complex and enigmatic situation
 
In term of situational analysis, in 2012, the situation in the south did not only escalate in term of more intense violence, but had also become more complex and enigmatic, due to two main reasons:
 
Reason One: From early 2012, there has been a series of major unrest events with widespread impact. The emphasis of this point is that the situational analysis of the southern unrest or discussions about the event in the area should not only be simple and ordinary "counts" as found in normal critiques. Underlying the numbers are countless lives and losses, and most of the unrest events in the Deep South are committed with "goals" and underlying reasons that can be interpreted in order to create "political communication", as can be observed from 8 major events during this year, namely:
 
29 January 2012: Armed attackers used a 40-mm grenade launcher to fire at the operation base of the 4302 Taharn Phran (Paramilitary) Company at Baan Nam Dam, Moo 3, Pulopuyo Sub-District, Nong Chik District, Pattani Province. Three rounds of grenade were fired, but did not result in any casualty. After the attack, the commander of the 4302 Taharn Phran Company organized teams to capture the attackers by the unit's plan near Baan Kayi, Moo 1, Pulpuyo Sub-District, Nong Chik District, Pattani Province. When a suspected vehicle was found, the company commander ordered people inside the vehicle to come out. When a passenger hurriedly exited the vehicle in panic, shots were fired by the officers and 4 suspects in the vehicle were dead while another 4 were injured. The event became a controversial topic among the locals and the relatives of the victims. The vehicle was carrying civilians who were on the way to give prayers to a deceased person in another village, and only contained youths and the elderly. The incident caused the 4th Region Army commander to order the Taharn Phran Unit 4302 to move out of the operation base within 24 hours and began a fact-finding inquiry on the matter, as well as immediately provided compensation to the family of those affected. The event was a launch of the continuity of violence throughout the year.
 
9 February 2012: A car bomb was detonated at an intersection in front of the Pattani Provincial Public Health Office on Sarith Road, Sabarang Sub-District, Mueang District, Pattani Province, causing 1 civilian death at the scene and 14 injured. Officers investigated the scene and found that the perpetrators hid an improvised explosive device (IED) inside a bronze Isuzu Dragon Eye pickup truck and parked the truck on the road in front of the Public Health Office since 0716 hours, before escaping on the pillion seat of an accomplice's motorcycle nearby. At 0805 hours, the attackers then detonated the oxygen fuse of the bomb, weighted approximately 50 kilograms by a communication radio, causing the mentioned death and injuries.
 
31 March 2012: Attackers detonated a car bomb in Yala Province near the intersection between Jongrak Road and Ruammit Road (in front of the Rung Rueang Boiled Rice Restaurant), causing damage to many rows of building. The force of the explosion caused secondary explosion of a van fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). When officials came to assist at the scene, attackers then detonated the explosive planted on a car in front of a 7-Eleven store near the entrance to Park View Hotel. The explosion caused 10 deaths and 127 persons injured. On the same day at approximately 1300 hours at Hat Yai District, Songkla Province, while local residents and tourists were shopping at Lee Garden Plaza shopping center, a violent explosion occurred and smoke blew out from the basement, which served as the shopping mall's parking lot. Local people and tourists ran to save their own lives in a state of panic, and a large number of people were trapped inside the mall. Officials had to quickly extinguish the fire and save those who were trapped inside. When the fire was under control and officials came to investigate the scene, a sedan was found to be ripped in 2 pieces by the force of the explosion. The blast also created a hole of approximately 2 meters in width on the floor of the parking area, and caused damage to hundreds of cars parked nearby. Officials made a conclusion that the explosion was caused by attackers who planted a car bomb at the mall, as the attack had similar characteristics to the attack in Yala Province. The event results in 5 deaths and 354 persons injured, including ordinary citizens and Malaysian tourists.
 
The two events caused the total number of casualties for the month of March to be the highest monthly casualty since the conflict began in 2004!!!
 
25 July 2012: An unknown number of attackers bombed the Thai police's teachers protection details from the Tha Thong Police Station, resulting in the death of 5 officers and 1 officer injured. The 6 police officers were patrolling the route and providing security to teachers on the Samoh-Upoh road on a Mazda pick-up truck. Upon arrival at the scene, the attackers then ignited the explosive, causing the police pick-up truck to skid off the road. An unknown number of attackers then ambushed the police officers with assault weapons, causing police casualties.
 
Then, on 28 July, approximately 15 attackers used 3 pick-up trucks and assault rifles to fire on the 2nd Operation Team, Ror.15321 Company, 25th Pattani Task Force (Cho Ko Pattani), resulting in the death of 4 soldiers at the scene and 2 soldiers injured. Before the attack, the patrol unit sent 6 soldiers on 3 motorcycles to oversee peace and order near the Baan Mayo market, Moo 1, Mayo Sub-District, Mayo District, Pattani Province. After the mission was complete, the soldiers then traveled back to the operation base. Upon arrival at the scene, approximately 15 attackers used 3 pick-up trucks to approach the soldiers' motorcycle, one truck each. The attackers on the back of the trucks, approximately 4-6 persons each, then fired the assault rifle on the first two motorcycles, causing the soldiers to fall. The attackers sitting in the two pick-up trucks then stepped off the vehicle to shoot the soldiers at point-blank range, resulting in 4 soldiers dead at the scene. The attackers also stole 4 M16 (A4) rifles and field uniforms. The third motorcycle which followed the other two motorcycles was also fired by the attackers at the back of the pick-up truck, causing the bike to fell to the side and the two remaining soldiers then took cover. The attackers then stepped off the truck to shoot the soldiers again, but the soldiers returned fire, causing the attackers to escape in the pick-up trucks and drove away by heading towards Mayo District, Pattani Province
 
The entire event was recorded on the officials' close-circuit television (CCTV) system, making national headline and also became widely publicized in the international media.
 
On 31 July, an unknown number of attackers planted a bomb behind the C.S. Pattani Hotel. The explosion caused slight injury to 5 civilians. Investigation showed that the bomb was an IED hidden in a cooking gas cylinder weighted 15 kilograms, trigged by a communication radio hidden in a blue Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck with a forged license plate, which was stolen on 25 June of the same year. The attackers parked the truck behind the hotel, next to a power transformer. The force of the explosion damaged the transformer and caused a small fire in the Hotel's kitchen. The event nonetheless made headline news, as C.S. Pattani was known to the public as a common ground for seminars and meetings in the Deep South.
 
In the middle of the night of 31 August, attackers bombed the inside of the Super Department Store in Yala Province, causing a fire. The fire originated from the depot at the back of the shopping mall and spread quickly to other sections of the building adjacent to civilian residential buildings. On the same day, at approximately 0500 hours, perpetrators stirred up the situation by planting the flag of Malaysia and suspicious objects with messages denouncing state officials at different spots in the 3 deep south provinces and in 4 districts of Songkla Province, i.e. at 96 spots in Narathiwat, 40 spots in Yala, 142 spots in Pattani and 18 spots in Songkla. The simultaneous disturbances in the Deep South in the mentioned areas were considered to be a large and wide-reaching simultaneous operation.
 
Although there was no fatality, the disturbance made August 2012 to be the month with more than 300 events of unrest, making it the month with the highest frequency of unrest events during the previous 9 years, from January 2004 onwards.
 
On 21 September in Saiburi District, Pattani Province, approximately 3-4 attackers drove a Toyota Hilux Vigo pick-up truck and fired assault rifle on Kamolporn Gold Shop, but there was no casualty. Afterwards, while officials were inspecting the scene, an explosion occurred causing 6 deaths and injuring 44 persons. Before the event, the attackers distributed flyers to the locals and demanded that businesses were to be closed on Friday under threat of harm.
 
As a consequence, business and shop owners in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat Provinces and in 4 districts of Songkla Province shut down their business on the following 3-4 Fridays in September/October until the Hari Raya Eid al-Adha weekend, indicating that the southern insurgents could conduct both military and political operations and deeply influence the situation in the deep south. The mentioned events also caused the situation of unrest in 2012 to be more violent and intense, particularly when compared to the previous year (2011).
 
Reason Two: The format of violence in 2012 has also become more complex and convoluting. It should also be noted that although the number of events increased and the frequently also spiked in some months, but the level of violence in general did not constantly escalate. It appears as though the expansion of violence was in a cascade-like pattern, thus the violence was not in the form of uncontrollable chaos. This reflects the existence of a certain “pulling force” or “balancing force” in the area, causing the violence to be continuous, but also with certainty and constancy.
 
Balancing Force of the Violence?
 
What is the cause of this balancing force? The balancing force that limits the expansion of the violence could be the outcomes of three main causes:
 
The first cause was the role of the state security force in preventing and suppressing the insurgency. The main security mechanism of the state is the military and policy forces who are deployed together with paramilitary forces, e.g. Taharn Phran (paramilitary rangers) and Aor Sor (territorial defense volunteers), numbering at a total of more than 60,000 personnel.  The security forces act to respond and use legal measures against the insurgents, e.g. BRN Coordinates, and PULO, through the legal jurisdiction granted by the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code under ordinary situation, as well as the Martial Laws Act and the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in State of Emergency.  The military measure used consisted of the deployment of "combined force" in the area, particularly at the field command level, with an operating team in the village, a rapid response unit and a patrol unit to receive hostile contact, conduct surround-and-search operation, and sabotage non-state armed forces. The state's forces also include armed civilian or volunteer forces numbering at more than 80,000 personnel, which consisted of the Chor Ror Bor (Village Security Team) and Aor Ror Bor (Village Security Volunteers) in more than 3,000 villages throughout the Deep South. The state's armed forces were the main actor in counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, with the total number of military, paramilitary, and civilian forces (including the military, the police, taharn phran, Aor Sor, Chor Ror Bor, and Aor Ror Bor) of approximately 150,000 personnel.
 
Analysis by Deep South Watch showed that this massive security force of the state sector of 150,000 personnel was maintained to fight against the anti-state forces, i.e. BRN, PULO, and various “Juwae” factions. Military intelligence sources indicated that approximately 9,616 "Jawae" were present. Although the situation could be controlled to a certain extent, but the situation in the Deep South could be clearly observed as an armed conflict.
 
 
The second cause for the force to balance the expansion of the violence was the state’s adjustment in its peace policy, found in both the government (the political branch) and the security branch of the state. A key change occurred during a high-level policy-making session in 2012, in which the National Security Council of Thailand (NSC) released a new national security policy regarding the situation in the South titled “Policy for Administration and Development of the Deep South, B.E. 2555-2557 (2012-2014 AD)”, announced in March 2012, with provision for:
 
....Creation of an environment which facilitates dialogues to find a solution out of the conflict and provide guarantees to those involved and the stakeholders in the peace process...”
 
In addition, the NSC also aimed to create a systematic and effective administration and development of the Deep South Provinces with integrated participation from all sectors, based on valid evidence and knowledge in providing valid and proper solutions. On the part of the 4th Region Army, the 4th Region Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) announced the policy of "Weaving Hearts for Peace" (Thai: "สานใจสู่สันติ"), which emphasized the opportunities for those whose opinions differed from the state to have channels for expressing their viewpoints and become involved in solving the problem. The 6 strategies used by the 4th Region ISOC, i.e. the 6-stems strategy, were: 1) Making an understanding with the people; 2) Development of human resources; 3) Solving the problem of overlapping threats; 4) justice and human rights; 5) Providing safety for the people's lives and properties; and 6) The people's participation. While the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) also designated 9 strategies to support the NSC's policy, particularly the 3rd strategy to "...create a space and environment to find a peaceful exit to the conflict..."
 
Development of the state's security and peace policy is a continuing evolution of the policy to manage the problem in the Deep South, which begin in 2004, starting with the enforcement of the Martial Laws Act in 2004, followed by the announcement of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in State of Emergency in 2005, the coup d’état against the Thaksin government and the use of heavy military means in surround-and-search operations and the surge in military manpower in 2007, the enactment of the Internal Security Operations Act of 2008, and the policies on administration and development of the Deep South by the National Security Council (NSC) in March 2012. The mentioned policies and measures could respond to the imminent problems during each period, yet the situation of unrest still progressed to a more chronic state in the latter phases.
 
 
However, the state policies in using political means to lead military actions and using a peaceful approach also had their own severe blind spots. On one hand, there are problems in determining strategies and targets that have become more numerous and clear but are problematic in their implementation. The confusion in policy management arose when an agency was to be tasked with leading the implementation of the security policy. Both ISOC and SBPAC were supported by two laws, namely, the Internal Security Act of 2008, and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Act of 2010. In May 2012, the Royal Thai Government must rely on the State Administration Act of 1991 to establish the Committee to Mobilize Policy and Strategy to Solve Problems in the Southern Border Provinces (CPS) to solve the problem in the southern policy and strategy and create "unity and integration for effective action". The Royal Thai Government intended the CPS to be a national-level executive organization to direct and monitor the integration and mobilization the efforts to solve the problems in the southern border provinces. All cabinet ministers were also directed to implement the plan of the National Security Council (NSC), which had been transformed into a 29-objectives operational plan, to review based on the belief that the plan would become a plan for daily action for each ministry to consider issues related to its own office, develop into a strategic plan with high priority, and send the developed strategic plan back to the Secretary of the NSC.
 
The "9-5-29" code of the operation to extinguish the southern fire with the aim of integration and establishment of the Committee to Mobilize Policy and Strategy to Solve Problems in the Southern Border Provinces Operation Center (CPS-OS) also lacks progress, particularly when the political sector had problems with the internal management of the government. The political sector could not find a proper office in-charge with adequate capacity, knowledge and experience to solve the problems in the south. A key issue here was that even though there were as many as 29 objectives to determine the power structure, policy, strategy, and joint strategic goals, but without a strong political will, the 9-5-29 code could become a zero when there was no actual mobilization. Upon military and political invasions through waves of insurgency attacks in July, August, September, and from the month of Ramadan onwards, the state appeared to be on the defensive side once again. Thus the situation had become more intensively violent and the situation has become more convoluting and enigmatic.
 
The final cause was the problem of using the discursive language in the policy and progressive ideas by the state, in which there were limitations due to the negligence of the locals, civil societies, and grassroots level organizations who were the real "insiders" who actually understood the problem. This is the problem of incomprehensive visualization of the peace process. A real and sustainable peace could only exist from the processes of the insiders. Modification of the public administration system to be effective is difficult to undertake, and is not the real solution to the conflict.
 
A key variable in solving the problem of violence for peace in the Deep South is a process stemming from the inside. The power of local civil societies should be enhanced to have the role of being the mediator and the "common space" in the peace process.
 
Peace Stemming from Internal Processes: From Little to Large
 
What is a peace process stemming from the insiders? This is a transformation of conflict that would lead towards creation of a common space. A key component is the idea that conflict is NOT something that must be eliminated. Rather, conflict may be something of value and an inevitable necessity for social and developmental change. On the other hand, this idea also deems the use of violence as an "avoidable component" in the relationship and interactions between the conflicting parties. An important point in this transformation is the creation of a creative relationship between the actors in the conflict and the creation of necessary structures and mechanisms for creation of sustainable peace.
 
A large number of questions have been posed on whether the daily incidents of violence, which recently appear to become more intense, could make the Pa(t)tani Peace Process proposed by civil societies and academics in the Deep South appear to be an impossible task that was not connected or in accordance with the daily events and the political-military offense undertaken by the insurgents. The Road Map for Deep South Peace is actually being drawn under the current situation, and the peace process is currently making progress one step at a time, from little to large. The Pa(t)tani Peace Processes (PPP)[1] is thus a creation of a complex and non-linear political space that would create conflict transformation using a diverse variety of peace-supporting structures that could change itself according to the events, with the goal of creating political discourses or paradigm to support a powerful and sustainable peace process.
 
The emergence of the peace process has a way forward, a Road Map. In this case, there are two approaches in creating a Road Map for Peace:
 
The first approach emphasizes on peace as the main target outcome (peace-writ-large). This process involves individuals from various sectors and factions with different final objectives. The Patani liberation movement or the insurgents aim to separate the area into a new, independent state. The Thai state aims to protect the rights, security, and sovereign power and security of the nation and maintain status quo.  Local civil societies aim to decentralize the governing authority and solve the problem of conflict. The grassroots people, meanwhile, aim to demand justice and solve problems related to the economy and their own well-being. Thus peace-writ-large refers to the fact that all parties, particularly the state and the insurgents, either come to discuss and negotiate or fight each other until a decisive victory is reached, resulting in negative peace. Therefore, the peace process in this approach would consist of fighting, discussions, and negotiations with one another. An example of this approach can be found in present-day Mindanao, in which the two parties to the conflict have undergone fighting, talks, negotiations, and compromises for an extensive period of time, eventually resulting in an agreement. The government of the Philippines agreed to accept the status of the Bangsa Moro people, and a framework for peace talks was eventually achieved.
 
 
The second approach emphasizes on creation of small-scale peace (peace-writ-little).  In this approach, small-scale areas of peace are created in different places using an incremental approach. The mentioned process would gather all parties to the conflict into a “space for relationships”. In this sense, those involved in the process may include members of the anti-state movements, the existing institutions, the military, the policy, civilians, civil society groups, and both Buddhist and Muslim Malay villagers, as well as various stakeholders.
 
The second approach would create an agreement that relies on mutually-accepted processes and principles between all stakeholders. This type of peace process would rely on the "insiders" to create a common space to solve the problem together, one step at a time, and enhance peace through various issues: culture, religion, language, education, and peaceful co-existence, justice in everyday life and providing relief and compensation for the losses due to the unrest, etc.
 
As mentioned earlier, the peace-writ-little approach is not only an approach towards peace, but also aims to create a complex and non-linear “political space” that would create conflict transformation using a diverse variety of peace-supporting structures that could change itself according to the situation. The process would create a political discourse or paradigm to support a powerful and sustainable peace process.
 
 
A key point in the relationship between the peace-writ-large and peace-writ-little approaches is that at the end, peace-writ-little would eventually overlap with peace-writ-large and would lead towards negotiations on the big issues as shown in the first Road Map. This is what the civil societies and grassroots organizations in the area are studying and developing themselves in order to make proposals in the peace process, including the proposal for special administration, peace talks with differing groups, creation of justice, provision of relief to families who have experienced losses from the events, solving the problem of drugs and reforming security actions in the Deep South.
 
In summary, the protracted and enigmatic violence reflects the special characteristics of the situation in the Deep South, in which the "intensity level" is higher while the peace process of the insiders is moving forward at the same time. The situation reflects the increase in the level of violence in qualitative term and indicates the continuity of the chronic situation of the violence in the region. However, the situation also reflects the balance to the violence due to the peace process, which still has its own potential. The unified forces of war and peace will keep on balancing with one another under the force of peace triumphs and eventually leads to conflict transformation.
 
 

[1] The term "Pa(t)tani" reflects the main conflict in the discourse on "Patani (Kingdom)" vs. "Pattani (Province)"). The former term reflects the political desire connected to the long history of the region, while the latter term is a name of a province in the Deep South under the framework in public administration of the Thai state and the maintenance of status quo. Pa(t)tani also includes the necessary processes in negotiating between the two discourses in the conflict field.