The tense relationship between Malay Muslims of Southern Thailand and the central government of Thailand has actually been in existence since the incorporation of the Kingdom of Patanni that covered the likes of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, into Siam (later known as Thailand) in 1909. Ever since then, the Malay-Muslims have suffered from many assimilation policies created by Thai government that was originally aimed to transform Malay Muslims into Thai Muslims. The policies varied from the abolishment of Malay Muslims’ history from educational practices, religious holidays in the south were abolished, Malay Muslims were prohibited from wearing traditional dress, teaching Yawi (Malay dialect spoken in Southern Thailand), and practicing Sharia law and they were also encouraged to adopt Thai-sounding names.4 All of these policies forcefully made the Malay-Muslims in the region to abandon their customs and traditions and to accept and profess the culture of Thai Buddhists, both explicitly and implicitly.
Malay Muslims clearly resented the government’s actions and regarded them as an attack on their ethnic, religious, and cultural identity. Though the policies seemed to aim at a good thing, which is to unite the Malay Muslims with the rest of Thais, the consequences of the government policies could reasonably be said to infringe the fundamental rights of the Malay Muslims of the South and also showed lack of respect attitude toward the Muslims’ past history. With this, conflict attitude of Malay-Muslims in Southern Thailand toward Thai government has been formed.
In the year 1960, conflict escalated in the southern region. There were various armed groups covertly formed in the Southern provinces. The main organized militant groups were the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN). The main objective of these groups was to form an independent Muslim state. The conflict attitude was then transformed into a range of violent behavior. The militant groups began targeting the Thai security forces by conducting violent campaigns, attacking police posts and government buildings. 5
In 1980s, the government successfully put the conflict to minimum through counter insurgency movements. Thai government finally recognized the real demand of the insurgents and switched from a purely military response to the violence in the south to a political one. This change was promoted by General Prem Tinsulanonda, who served as prime minister from 1980 to 1988.6 After reaching an agreement, the Southern militant groups were given amnesty and the Prime Minister introduced several changes in administration of the Southern region. One of the successful programs was the establishment of The Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC). This was introduced by the government to encourage effective cooperation and coordination of government administration with the southern region, which was also aiming to improve the...