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Ethnic Violence in Southern Thailand: the Anomaly of Satun

Conlon, Kevin T.

Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School


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by Kevin T. Conlon

June 2012

Thesis Advisor: Michael Malley Second Reader: Sandra Leavitt

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4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE Ethnic Violence in Southern Thailand: The Anomaly 5. FUNDING NUMBERS

of Satun

6. AUTHOR(S) Kevin T. Conlon



11. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES The views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government. IRB Protocol number N/A .

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13. ABSTRACT (maximum 200 words)

This research uses a historical comparative analysis to investigate the differences between two specific Muslim- majority regions of Thailand: the province of Satun, along the western coast of southern Thailand, and provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and Songkhla, which border the Malaysian state of Kelantan and the Gulf of Thailand.

The formation of ethnic identities in Satun and Patani has followed different paths over time, and these variations in development have produced dramatically divergent outcomes in relation to observable communal violence and terrorist attacks. Satun has virtually no problem with ethnic or religious conflict when compared to the four other southern provinces that have suffered from multiple rebellions against the state, numerous incidents of violence and terrorism, and a pervading sense of instability and fear.

This pronounced difference in outcomes also reflects the degree to which various ethnic groups within the country have been able to integrate peacefully into the modern Thai state. Finally, an analysis of the Thai government’s effectiveness in managing this integration process in both regions will provide insight into providing effective governance throughout the contested regions of southern Thailand, and what the potential is for a future resolution of this conflict.

14. SUBJECT TERMS Satun, Patani, Thailand, Ethnic violence, Nationalism, Social inequality, 15. NUMBER OF Cultural identity, Institutional development, Rational choice frameworks, Southeast Asia, Terrorism, PAGES Insurgencies, Islam 131



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Kevin T. Conlon Major, United States Marine Corps B.S., Humboldt State University, CA, 1998

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of


from the


Author: Kevin T. Conlon

Approved by: Michael Malley Thesis Advisor

Sandra Leavitt Second Reader

Daniel Moran Chair, Department of National Security Affairs





This research uses a historical comparative analysis to investigate the differences between two specific Muslim-majority regions of Thailand: the province of Satun, along the western coast of southern Thailand, and provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and

Songkhla, which border the Malaysian state of Kelantan and the Gulf of Thailand.

The formation of ethnic identities in Satun and Patani has followed different paths over time, and these variations in development have produced dramatically divergent outcomes in relation to observable communal violence and terrorist attacks. Satun has virtually no problem with ethnic or religious conflict when compared to the four other southern provinces that have suffered from multiple rebellions against the state, numerous incidents of violence and terrorism, and a pervading sense of instability and


This pronounced difference in outcomes also reflects the degree to which various ethnic groups within the country have been able to integrate peacefully into the modern Thai state. Finally, an analysis of the Thai government’s effectiveness in managing this integration process in both regions will provide insight into providing effective governance throughout the contested regions of southern Thailand, and what the potential

is for a future resolution of this conflict.






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a. Early Satun History Prior to 1200 CE u......cc.sscssssssssssessceseseees 28 b. The Ayutthaya Dynasty, 1351-1767 ......cscsssssesssesscescessssessees 29 c. The Chakri Dynasty and the Bangkok Period, 1767-1902 ...31 d. Nationalism and the Modern Era 1902—Present .............0000+ 35 PATANI’S DEMOGRAPHICS AND HISTORY ...........cccscsssscssscssssesssesesee 43 1. Patani’s Historical Record sisssssssesiscsscestvassccsiencsssssenssssesersecsssevecesssses 45 a. Early Patani History Prior to 1200 CE. u......c..scssscsssssssssseseeees 47 b. The Ayutthaya Dynasty, 1351-1767......csssccesssssesscesesscssesscees 49 Cc: Chakri Dynasty and the Bangkok Period, 1767-1902........... 53 d. Nationalism and the Modern Era, 1902—Present..............+++ a7. CONTRIBUTING FACTORS FOR PEACE IN SATUN .........sccsscsssseseees 63 1. Satun’s Cultural Influences for Nonviolence ...............scccsscccsssseesees 63 a. TATU is aye Nara ata neaewCiselecd ea eelnases Oauetoaa week 63 b. ROU BION cicccceuteaasieabeasachasniaeatadnas aanesi Mienaastivaaiehavesnoasens 65 Z Satun’s Institutional Influences for Nonviolence. .............sccsesscesees 67 a. PE QUCQU OI. .cscesessessessaviedcsanksadeansu RN yiss hi ghass Sin wine SNES 67 b. Center-periphery Relations..........ssccssssccssrscsssscssssccssscsessscsees 68 Cc. Political Representation ........ssccccsrsccssssecsssccsssccssssccssssccsssscseees 70 d. Security Forces and Domestic Order .........ssscccssscsssssssesscsseees 70 3. Satun’s Rational Choice Causes of Nonviolence ...............ssccsssseeeees 72 a. The Futility of Fighting a Larger Power .........:c.sscsssssssssseseees 72 b. Smuggling and the Black MarKet.........:sccsssccsssssssssscssssceseseees 73 c. Legitimate Economic Calculations .........scsssccsssssesssseessceseees 74 d. Civil Society and the Pursuit of Peace .........sssccssrssessrsecsscees 75 CONTRIBUTING FACTORS FOR VIOLENCE IN PATANT...........0060 77 1, Patani’s Cultural Influences of Violence ...............ccscccsssccssssccssssceees 77 a. EAN CUE sscee ce iescincaticavatenitionsrcdsieunecstestasaneriadentciwensieseuiaadestaut 77 b. RO} G1 OM isisaissscassessaucesvenasapcasavusiasosadeyeviaSoananpisvatosatveisuansbetiveess 79 z; Patani’s Institutional Causes of Violence ............ccscccsssccsssscesessceees $1 a EAUCAHON siaitsivrnntcasisicadisianci ea dingnaneiannenebolaeesn 81

b. Center-Periphery Relations .........ccsscccssssscesssesssscssssscessssceeseees 82 c. Political Representation............sscccsssccssssscsssccsesscssessccsssscesssccees 83 d. Security Forces and Domestic Order .........csscccssesscesscesesscseens 85 3. Patani’s Rational Choice Influences for Violence..................sseesees 88 a The Failure of Traditional Conflict Resolution Methods .....89 b Thai Nationalism as a Direct Threat to Patani Muslim CUNT Es sieijcssaccnasdis etnias Kisitinteinaies ea orn aaWsiitiaebenens 91 C: A Possible Security Dilemma Between Buddhists and IVELASTUINS scccdesssivasaienshdvasdiisasaoasssovsess scence eiessiabaceinessoasaseaeeeees 92 d. The Breakdown of Civil Society and the “Purging” of COMMUNITIES sexscvacs testi vicssedscrexieideradveni ace skessvedsnisdoastisecoins 94 Il. CONC IG US LOIN cess ses cote teecets clea cia os exes hea a hcceset Uae cenustnuausticccaseeiiadeaest@aeateunacuausecescans 97 BEBLIOGRA PEVY pass sasessssctaceceatocceiansencrndesecareesivntes ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED. ENETIA LZ DISTREBU TION: EUS ID sc ipccsiaces cea codccassseupccussaceateassonacsscoaccusovenseabooteaubancsnasveeossee 115



Figure 1. Five Southernmost Provinces of Thailand .......... ce. ceeeeseesseceseceeeeeeseeeeneeeaeenes 22 Figure 2. Administrative Provinces of Thailand. 0.0... eee eesceeeeeseecsseceeeeseeeeneeeaeenes 24 Figure 3. Flag of the Greater Patani State, circa 18th Century 00... eeeeeeeeereeeneeeees 55























Association of South East Asian Nations National Patani Liberation Front Barisan Revolusi Nasional Counterinsurgency

Civilian Military Police Task Force 43 Communist Party of Thailand

Greater Pattani Malayu Association Gross Domestic Product

Gerakan Mujahideen Islam Pattani Muslim-majority provinces

People’s Liberation Army of Thailand Prime Minister

Pattani People’s Movement

Pattani United Liberation Organization Royal Thai Army

Royal Thai Police

Southern Border Provinces Administration Center Sea lines of communication

Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device





I would not be where I am today if it were not for the constant love and support I have received from my family and friends. Although my decision to enter the military frightened and concerned them in some regards, they have always been there for me, through both the good and bad times, for nearly four decades. This unconditional concern and backing has kept me moving forward even when things seemed more daunting than


Without a doubt, I also owe many thanks, and my deepest appreciation, to the large number of highly dedicated leaders, fellow Marines, and various shipmates from other services I have met during my many travels and travails throughout 14 years of military service. These cohorts and peers gladly shared their ideas and opinions with me and also never hesitated to tip back a few sophisticated adult beverages when it was needed most. USN LT Luke Barlow also rates a hearty “Bravo Zulu” in this regard for his frequent reflections and advice on Thailand, Patani, and Satun, as well as the

numerous chokes and arm bars he demonstrated to me out on the mat.

More recently, during the last 18 months I have attended Naval Postgraduate School, I have had the great pleasure and incredible good fortune to work with some immensely talented and intelligent instructors and civilian Department of Defense employees. These teachers and advisors are the unsung heroes of the institution, and I was always amazed by the depths of their patience, knowledge, insight, and experience. Three individuals in particular stand out in this regard: My thesis advisor, Professor Michael Malley, my second reader, Professor Sandra Leavitt, and Mr. Michael Stevens. Professor Malley, despite his frequent travels to the far reaches of the globe, always provided poignant feedback and sensible advice on this particular topic and helped me to develop a deep amount of respect for the finer details of the writing and editorial process. His critiques have made me reflect deeply on the scope of my own knowledge regarding Southeast Asia along with the finer points of academic research and written

communication. Professor Sandra Leavitt selflessly spent many early mornings, lunch


hours, and late nights discussing the nuances of ethnicity, politics, and the history of Thailand with me, a process in which I gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation for this part of the world. Her constant encouragement and good humor to keep moving through that “last 500 feet to the summit” gave me hope that perhaps there was, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel. Mr. Michael Stevens provided me with numerous leads and loans for academic sources and tomes along with helping me to enjoy some exquisite Thai cuisine at several working lunches. His experience in the Thai language and extensive field research throughout the southern provinces of Thailand gave

me a valuable window of insight into the culture that exists in this region.

And lastly to my muse, who helped me through the long and arduous process of writing this thesis with many late night words of optimism and kindness, you are missed

more than you will ever know.



A. INTRODUCTION 1 Major Research Question

Thailand’s southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla (which in the course of this paper will be referred to collectively as the “Patani region’”’') have suffered from a long record of unrest, violence, and strife that seems to have no end in sight.” This low-intensity conflict historically revolves around the societal cleavages that exist between the greater Buddhist majority within the country and the smaller populations of Thai Muslims of Malay descent who live along the Thai-Malaysian border.’ The trajectory of this violence also rose dramatically during 2004-2006, when Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra adopted a much harsher approach towards the region. However, by declaring martial law in the region, deploying additional military and police

forces to “keep the peace,” and suspending constitutional rights via an “emergency

1 Historically, the name “Patani” is frequently used to describe the Islamic Sultante of Patani that existed in Southern Thailand from 1516-1902. Conversely, the name “Pattani’” is usually used in a more modern context to refer to the Thai province of Pattani that first fell under Thai administrative control in 1909. The term “Patani” is highly charged with ethnic and political meaning for a large number of Muslims in southern Thailand because it harkens back to previous eras of independence, power, and eminence that the Patani Sultante possessed before it was subjected to Siamese assimilation and control. In this paper I will use the term “Patani region” to designate the collective geographic area contained within the provinces of Songkhla, Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani. This particular geographic area has been the central pilllar of several movements in southern Thailand to create an autonomous or independent Islamic state on a number of different occasions.

2 Max L. Gross, A Muslim Archipelago: Islam And Politics In Southeast Asia (Washington, D.C.: National Defense Intelligence College, March 2007), 75.

3 In the context of this paper, I will refer to various Muslim populations by their geographic location in order to reduce the confusion associated with distinguishing different Muslim groups from each other. For example, “Kelantan Muslims” are Malay Muslims from Malaysia who live in the state of Kelantan. The “Pattani Muslims” are Muslims from the Thai province of Pattani who predominantly speak a Malay dialect known as “Jawi” and maintain very close cultural ties and similarities to the Kelantan Muslims who live to the south of the Thai-Malaysian border. The Satun Muslims (or “Sam Sams”) are Muslims from the Thai province of Satun who predominantly speak the predominant Thai national language. These geographic and ethnic differences have been critical in the formation of cultural identities and the resulting history of violence in southern Thailand over the past several hundred years. Referring to communities of people by their region and religion, i.e., Pattani Muslim, is for convenience. Unless otherwise stressed, it does not imply that Islam is a politically salient identity at that time or that grievances are necessarily about religion at a point in time. When Islam is an important factor, that point will be made directly.


decree,” he exacerbated tensions between Bangkok and Patani.* After Thaksin was removed by a military coup in 2006, many observers hoped that new initiatives for reform and reconciliation could take place. Unfortunately, violence in the region has continued unabated and the Thai government still struggles to peacefully resolve this situation. Although the violence has not returned to the same levels as 2004—2006, it remains a serious problem. As of 2012, it is estimated that the southern Thailand insurgency has inflicted over 5,700 deaths and roughly 12,000 injured within Muslim and

Buddhist communities alike over the course of the last seven years.”

In the midst of these troubles, the Thai province of Satun stands out as a curious anomaly. Despite possessing many similarities to the other Muslim communities in the region, this single area has not had any serious outbreaks of religious or ethnic violence. Researchers who have investigated this region frequently report that Satun’s diverse ethnic and religious communities do not experience the same levels of distrust and violence that are found in the Patani region. In a larger sense, this same trend for nonviolence between the local populations in Satun also extends to Satun’s interactions with the Thai government. Compared to the other provinces of southern Thailand, Satun’s relationship with Bangkok lacks the distinct undertones of confrontation, separatism, and frustration that is common in Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla.° What has caused this divergent outcome in Satun? Is it a result of long standing historical or geographical factors that are unique and nontransferable? Are there particular aspects of the cultural identity found within the province of Satun that have led its citizens to denounce violence and accordingly refuse to let these conflicts take root in their communities? Did it fail to arise because Satun did not suffer from the same biased

government policies, political mismanagement, and skewed center-periphery relations

4 Sunai Phasuk, “Emergency Decree Creates Climate of Fear in Southern Thailand,” Thailand Monitor, Feb 8, 2006, http://www.thaiworld.org/en/thailand_monitor/answer.php?question_id=266.

5 Srisompob Jitpiromsri, “The Obvious Trend of Violence’s Intensification in the Deep South Over 7 Years.” DeepSouthWatch, April 5, 2011, http://www.deepsouthwatch.org/node/1603.

6 Philip Golingai, “Satun, Thailand’s Tamed South.” The Star, August 1, 2009, http://philipgolingai.blogspot.com/2009/08/satun-thailands-tamed-south.html.


that existed between Patani and Bangkok? Or has this condition simply developed due to decisions that local individuals are making in terms of rational choices and possible

economic incentives?

This thesis will investigate some of the explanations for the lack of conflict within Satun, compare them against the larger body of research that has been conducted on the more restive areas of southern Thailand, and attempt to draw some conclusions as to why this Muslim-majority province has not experienced the same levels of violence that have been endemic in other predominantly Muslim provinces. This comparison is intriguing because while many researchers have focused exclusively on describing and explaining the ongoing violence within Patani, very few analysts have conducted inquiries about Satun and attempted to explain why there is a pronounced absence of strife in this particular area. By conducting this inquiry we may be able to gain additional insight on the nature of the conflict in southern Thailand, and why the inhabitants of Satun and the

Patani region have pursued such dramatically different courses of action over the years.

2. Importance

This issue has profound impacts on both the citizens of Thailand, as well as the Thai government that is charged with maintaining order and safety within the country. For the inhabitants of southern Thailand, at its most primal level, this concern is tied to having safe communities for local citizens and families to live in. For many of these southern communities, it is impossible for people to go about their daily activities such as attend school or pursue their livelihoods, without the fear of being bombed or shot in some sort of random attack. In a larger sense, this significance is also about the potential for larger conflicts to develop between different ethnic or religious groups. Satun is quite interesting in this regard due to the lack of friction between local Muslim and Buddhist communities. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Narathiwat, Yala, Patani, and Songkhala, and several authors have commented on the nascent Buddhist “militarization”

within these particular provinces.’ This is an alarmin trend, as it may add an additional p Pp g y

7 Michael Jerryson, Buddhist Warfare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 189. a

religious dimension to the conflict within southern Thailand. In doing so, it could begin to expand this problem from an ethno-separatist issue that has been directed against the Thai government to a wider problem that could either increasingly define the conflict as a “Buddhist-Muslim” struggle, or possibly even attract the attention and involvement of

external Jihadi influences from abroad.

From a macro perspective, the absence or presence of conflict within the country has widespread implications for the Thai government as well. First, there is the simple desire to maintain civil order and the rule of law within the country. This stability may be threatened however if the local citizenry has a strong sense that a schism exists between what they should be entitled to and what the state actually provides for them. This frustration can build up to levels where people will attempt to find some sort of alternative method to resolve this conflict they are experiencing in their lives.® They may try to use the existing political and judicial systems in an attempt to gain some measure of redress. If this is not possible, they may decide to “exit,” or commit to a strategy in which their social group flees the area entirely. They might simply stop participating in the national system, or worst of all, an aggrieved population may also engage in acts of violence against targets that they perceive as being the cause of their suffering. In southern Thailand, this targeting process frequently appears to have been directed against agencies of the government: military units, police forces, government officials and offices, schools, teachers, and Buddhist temples for example. Innocent citizens often get caught up in this conflict as well if they are seen as being on an “opposing” side.” If we compare these frightening conditions found in Patani to Satun, we can see that there are much closer ties between the central government and the provincial leaders in the latter region. This cooperative relationship in Satun has proven to be extremely productive within various initiatives such as political participation, conflict resolution, and economic

development to include upgrading port facilities and supporting tourism.

8 Theda Skocpol, States & Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia & China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 9.

9 Neil J. Melvin, “Conflict in Southern Thailand: Islamism, Violence and the State in the Patani Insurgency,” SIPRI Policy Paper No. 20, September 2007, 26-27.


Having a peacefully integrated Buddhist-Muslim community also reduces the need for a constant presence of police and military forces to enforce local law and order. Achieving peace in Patani would allow the Thai government to allocate its national resources to other areas, such as the conflict along the Thailand-Cambodia border or thwarting drug-trafficking and arms smuggling. The scale and scope of this drain on Thailand’s national resources is substantial: in the wake of ongoing security concerns in the south the Thai government has dedicated in excess of 60,000 military personnel and police officers throughout Narathiwat, Yala, Patani, and Songkhala to deal with the ongoing violence.'” This fact is a dramatic counterpoint to the case of Satun, where visitors often note the conspicuous absence of roadblocks, military checkpoints, and

armed government patrols.

Uncontrolled conflict within Thailand can also affect how other external countries and individuals see the Thai nation and decide to interact with it. For example, tourism alone in Thailand represents up to 7.9 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The spread of violence and instability could create a situation in which the larger global community may begin to view the country as a dangerous and risky place to conduct business or visit.'' On a political or international relations level, this problem can have direct impacts on Thailand’s relationships with neighboring Muslim countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia. This exact type of scenario played out in 2005 when 131 refugees from southern Thailand fled to Malaysia seeking asylum after they felt that their lives were in danger if they remained in Patani.'* As a result of this incident, the Malaysian government broke away from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) “noninterference” norms and refused to return the refugees to the Thai

government. Malaysia also publicly questioned Thailand’s treatment of its ethnic

10 International Crisis Group. “Stalemate in Southern Thailand,” Asia Briefing, no. 113, November 3, 2010, 1.

11 Jon Fernquest, “Income generated by Thailand’s tourism sector to be measured in greater detail,” The Bangkok Post, August 27, 2010, “http://www.readbangkokpost.com/easybusinessnews /hotels_restaurants_and_tourism/income_generated_by_thailands.php.

12 Peter Hourdequin, “Malaysia’s 2005-2006 refugee stand-off with Thailand: a security culture analysis,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 8, no. 2 (2007): 176-177.


minorities in the south and appealed to the United Nation’s High Council on Refugees to

intervene in the situation within southern Thailand, all of which caused the international

community to view the Thai government in an extremely negative light.


Problems and Hypotheses

This paper proposes three main hypotheses as to why Satun has evolved over the

years into a predominantly nonviolent province compared to the other southern provinces

that have not:

Satun displays unique history and cultural components that have fostered a much different local ethnic identity and corresponding relationship to the Thai government than what is found the Patani provinces. Satun was actually part of a different and less powerful Muslim Sultanate known as Kedah, rather than the more robust Patani Sultanate, that was the predecessor of the modern day provinces of the other southern Malay Muslim communities. Due to this divergent history, the Patani Muslims have maintained a different cultural identity as Malay Muslims and maintain a much greater sense of loss at the hands of the Thai government than the Muslims in Satun.

Because the Satun region assimilated more easily to the Thai government’s institutional objectives (such as embracing nationalism and secular education), it did not garner the harsh repression and enforcement measures that were utilized in Patani. Conversely, the Thai government has failed to appreciate the differences between Satun and Patani noted in hypothesis (1). As a result, the Thai government’s policies of subjugation and assimilation in the Patani region have been perceived by the Malay Muslims as a policy of cultural annihilation.

Due to the influences of a divergent ethnic identity and a different reaction to the government institutions noted in hypotheses (1) and (2), the inhabitants of Satun did not develop extensive lists of grievances against the Thai government. As a result, Satun’s residents had no incentive to utilize violence against Bangkok and, in fact, the residents of Satun have specifically rejected the use of violence because of the negative effects such a choice would cause on their individual and communal lives.

The first hypothesis is focused on several formative cultural factors, such as

history, language, and religion. An examination of these elements will allow us to see

how they have caused a much different ethnic identity to develop in Satun when


compared to the ethnic identity that has been formed in Narathiwat, Yala, Patani, and Songkhla. The immense power of these cultural identities, and how they can propel groups to pursue different courses of action (such as violence) in response to external pressures, has been examined in a number of different social identity theories. There is little doubt that these cultural factors have provided a strong foundation for shaping the conditions we find in Satun today; however, culture alone cannot completely explain this

phenomenon and there are most likely other factors at work here as well.

The second hypothesis proposes that the core of existing historical and cultural conditions within these two regions were subsequently greatly influenced by the interactions they have had with various institutions and policies that were implemented by the Thai government. Factors, such as the implementation of national education programs, center-periphery relationships, political representation, and the activities of domestic security forces, have been critical in either reducing or aggravating the potential for violence in southern Thailand. In many regards, these policies from Bangkok were viewed as less coercive and intrusive by the population in Satun than they were by the other southern provinces so Satun had a much lower amount of public discontent and

grievances that were directed against the Thai government.

The third hypothesis is based on rational choice theories. Rational choice states that many individual actors will make decisions based on the relative utility gained from these calculations and resulting decisions. In both Satun and Patani, rational choice revolves around the utility of violence as a means to achieve collective goals. Unlike the Muslims in Patani, the Muslims of Satun have not pursued violence against the government due to a lack of widespread grievances and the belief that violence would only bring more problems than the potential benefits this course of action might provide. Despite a common religious linkage between the two regions, Satun sees the option of joining in a larger Muslim resistance with their Malay neighbors as having no inherent value or benefits that can be realized. Rather, this type of choice would only bring destruction and suffering into the communities of Satun much like they have in Patani.

By comparison, in the Patani region, many observers believe that violence has become


viewed as a rationally calculated choice by local Muslim nationalist or insurgent groups, such as Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO), Gerakan Mujahideen Islam Pattani (GMIP), or the United Front for the Independence of Pattani (Bersatu). Due to the fact that the standard methods of conflict resolution, these groups have attempted (such as political participation, legal redress, nonviolent protest, or social exit) have frequently proven to be ineffective, or even put them at greater risk of being targeted by either government forces or other opposing insurgent and militant groups in the region, violence has become the “tool of last resort”

to bring attention to their grievances.

4. Literature Review

The importance of cultural differences as a potential cause of ethnic violence has been widely discussed in many books, articles, and research papers. One of the most renowned contributions was made by Samuel Huntington in his work “The Clash of

So chats 2 13 Civilizations.”

This particular piece was extremely controversial when it was published in 1993, and it still has a certain degree of relevance today due to the fact that it describes the deep rooted impacts of cultural dichotomy, particularly religious divisions, in fomenting conflict. In the case of southern Thailand, some observers have theorized that Islamic extremism or Jihadism may be one of the primary causes of the violence that is taking place in the region. In many regards, it appears that Huntington’s theories are invalidated in the particular case of Satun, due to the mixed communities of Muslims and Buddhists who live in close proximity, yet do not engage in violent behavior towards each other. Huntington has also been heavily criticized by other observers, such as Edward W. Said, who felt that Huntington’s theories were oversimplified, neglected the

finer details and nuances of human interactions, and that this one dimensional analysis of

social interactions (i.e., declaring that religion is the only independent variable that

13 Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3, (1993): 25. 8

matters) did not consider other factors that could contribute to social friction, such as

language, politics, grievances, or the absence of viable dispute resolution methods.'*

Another theoretical viewpoint on the impacts of culture and religion on southern Thailand has been described by Surin Pitsuwan, a widely respected Thai academic, author, and politician, who is currently serving as the 12th Secretary General of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). In his view, the role of Islam within the country has been marginalized and eclipsed in many regards by the larger cosmology of the Buddhist majority government. Particularly during the period of intensive “nation building” from 1902-1957, the Thai government aggressively promoted the beliefs of “Buddhism,” “King,” and “Nation,” and anyone who did not subscribe to these same values was not considered part of the larger group of legitimate Thai citizens. Instead, the Patani Muslims who did not subscribe to these new norms were frequently viewed with both suspicion and disdain, and even identified or labeled as a potential threat (e.g., “separatists”) to the survival of the new national construct. For the Patani region, this forced cultural identity being imposed by the Thai government threatened its inhabitants with the distinct possibility of cultural extinction. This threat became a focal point for dissent and resistance in Patani, as it amounted to a request for the Muslims in these provinces to give up the cultural identity and beliefs that they had practiced for generations, a sacrifice that they were not prepared to make. As a result, Pitsuwan claims


that the Thai government’s attempts at “...national integration is synonymous with cultural disintegration from the perspective of many Malay Muslims.”'° In many regards, this threat of “cultural disintegration” has sparked deeply rooted reactions of fear and resistance and has led Patani Muslims to pursue a wide range of reactions to alleviate

these concerns, including violence. The role of nationalism in creating a strong central identity and the potential for

intra-group conflict can also be seen in various works by authors, such as Benedict

14 Edward W. Said, “The Clash of Ignorance,” The Nation, October 22, 2001, http://www.thenation.com/article/clash-ignorance?page=0,2.

15 Surin Pitsuwan, Islam and Malay nationalism: a case study of Malay-Muslims of southern Thailand (Bangkok: Thammasat University, 1985), 8.


Anderson and Craig Reynolds. Anderson explores many of the cultural explanations that revolve around values and beliefs, such as the concept of “imagined communities.” By examining how societies develop these notional constructs, Anderson feels that it is possible to describe why these types of behaviors can be so powerful in mobilizing populations to adhere to, and enforce, a singular concept of “being.”!° The “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” for example, is cited by Anderson as an example of how a society can imprint ideas and values upon the larger group even when the idea itself is not based on any concrete reality. This adherence to a national identity can also intertwine with religion or modes of social communication or symbols in order to satisfy the desire for a

cohesive, strong state.

Many times, a mythology (such as the concept of the “Unknown Soldier’) that is built up by the national leadership can often cause an increasing importance to be placed upon language or written documents to reinforce these beliefs and collective identity.'” Anderson’s claim in this regard is particularly intriguing because Thailand followed this exact same strategic process in building a national identity by implementing standardized languages, political administration systems, and cultural narratives designed by Bangkok

in order to bind the country together against several perceived external threats.

Another more recent and holistic use of cultural analysis in order to explain and understand violence, especially in the realm of counter insurgency and conflict management, has been utilized by the United States military after combat operations in theaters, such as Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. One example of this trend toward a deeper understanding of culture is a DoD publication entitled “Operational Culture for the Warfighter” written by Barak A. Salmoni and Paula Holmes-Eber. This document expands the modern day importance of this field of study and how it relates to the challenges it can create during the planning process for military operations. Instead of

simply defining culture as a struggle between competing ideologies or ethnicities,

16 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso Editions, 1983), 50.

17 Thid., 54. 10

Salmoni and Holmes-Eber organize their framework into five interlocking “dimensions” that include the physical environment, economic considerations, social structures, political organization, and belief systems.'* Although this framework for cultural analysis overlaps several of the theoretical models used in this paper, it is an another evolutionary step forward from Huntington’s work in recognizing the fact that culture consists or more than just a conflict between religions. Instead, cultural identity is a collective, subjective, and intricate construct that is linked to a myriad of human activities. The manifestation of these constructs revolves around the values, norms, beliefs, and attitudes that a society maintains within each of these five dimensions. This identity can also change over time

and be defined much differently between various groups or geographic locations."

In Kobuka Suwannathat-Pian’s 2008 article entitled “National Identity, the Sam- Sams of Satun, and the Thai Malay Muslims,” the author provides an excellent narrative of the historical development and demographics of Satun that over the years have created a unique cultural identity within this particular province, particularly in regards to linguistics. Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian argues that language has been one of the critical factors in how the Satun Muslims have been differentiated from the Patani Muslims by many different political leaders, ethnographers, researchers, and visitors to the two different regions. In fact, the name or label applied to the Muslims in Satun (“Sam- Sams”) was a truncation of the label “Siam Islam.” This name was frequently used by Thai leaders and neighboring communities to categorize the religious convictions and ethnic identity of the inhabitants of Satun as Muslims who spoke Thai in order to differentiate them from either the Thai speaking Buddhists or the Patani Muslims who

spoke an entirely different dialect altogether.””

In a similar fashion, Thomas Parks also discussed the impact of cultural

influences within Satun in a 2009 article he wrote for Small Wars and Insurgencies. This

18 Barak Salmomi and Paula Holmes-Eber, Operational Culture for the Warfighter: Principles and Applications (Quantico: Marine Corps University Press, 2008), 51.

19 Thid., 36.

20 Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian, ‘“‘National Identity, the Sam-Sams of Satun, and the Thai Malay Muslims.’In Thai South and Malay North: Ethnic Interactions on a Plural Peninsula, ed. Michael J. Montesano et al. (Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2008), 159.


particular article makes a convincing argument that in addition to the cultural influences of language, history, and religion, these cultural explanations are intertwined with several institutional elements in order to explain why Satun has remained peaceful for so many years. According to Parks, some examples of these institutional elements at work in Satun is the fact that the Thai government allowed Satun to maintain a higher degree of political autonomy, especially during the critical years of 1902-1934, than what was allowed in Patani. The Thai government also did not employ an extensive and aggressive military presence in the province of Satun to repress local citizens, which helped to prevent grievances from developing in the region.”’ As many researchers have noted in case studies of other countries, once popular grievances begin to “snowball” and reach a certain critical mass, they can be easily used as a catalyst for social mobilization and the use of violence in a quest for justice or a resolution of these problems. These specific interactions mentioned by Parks are just a few aspects of how the Thai government has maintained a much less repressive or intrusive presence in Satun than they did in the Patani region. This “soft” approach also facilitated positive working relationships between the Thai government located in Bangkok and Satun and allowed the “national

natrative” to take root much more easily in this area.

Supara Janchitfah also described a large number of these institutional factors (such as economic development, educational systems, and the provision for regional security) in her book entitled Violence in the Mist: Reporting on the Presence of Pain in Southern Thailand. In this work, she has described how the government’s role in managing local schools, natural resource allocation, and municipal and state law enforcement activities is critical in mitigating the spread of alienation, frustration, and anger that can lead to violence.”” Supara’s arguments are closely linked to theories about centralism as a political structure of management and control. Centralism holds that the

government will concentrate its power in a core region and then radiate agencies of

21 Thomas I. Parks, “Maintaining Peace in a Neighbourhood Torn by Separatism: The Case of Satun Province in Southern Thailand” Small Wars & Insurgencies, 20, no. 1 (2009): 196-197.

22 Supara Janchitfah, Violence in the Mist: Reporting on the Presence of Pain in Southern Thailand (Bangkok, Thailand: Kobfai Publishing Project, 2004), 54.


control out towards the edges of the state. In this fashion, the dynamics of center- periphery relations are created in various areas such as elected leadership, economics, or the urban-rural divide. For example, in Thailand, the centrally located metropolitan capital of Bangkok often selects politicians and government officials from the capital region and then sends them out to the more rural hinterlands of the country to execute their duties. Although this extends the control of the center, it can also create a schism between the central representatives and the local populations that see this appointment process as both overly invasive and causing local political decisions to be directly

controlled by “outsiders.”

Joseph Liow has focused on the importance of certain institutional factors in shaping the violence in southern Thailand as well. Much of his research revolves around the establishment of educational systems in Thailand and the various differences between state-sponsored schools and local Muslim pondoks that have become serious points of contention between Patani Muslim communities and the central government. As Liow points out, the Thai government has repeatedly attempted to mandate both curriculum and language training that were seen by the government as critical to building a national concept of being “Thai” and creating a homogeneous society of like-minded individuals. Two other critical components of this assimilation process has been adhering to common religious beliefs and displaying an unwavering loyalty to the Thai monarchy. Buddhism is practiced by more than 80 percent of Thai citizens, and for many years was actually mandated as the official religion within the country. It was not until the drafting of the 1997 constitution that this official status of Buddhism as a national religion was revised and a larger degree of religious freedom was allowed within Thailand.*? Unwavering respect for the monarchy was another aspect of this indoctrination as well; an act as simple as saying anything negative about the king or marring an image of him could result in a lese majesty conviction and a possible confinement of three to fifteen years in

prison. Unfortunately, these efforts by the national government to impose common

23 Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian, ‘“‘National Identity, the Sam-Sams of Satun, and the Thai Malay Muslims.” In Thai South and Malay North: Ethnic Interactions on a Plural Peninsula, ed. Michael J. Montesano et al. (Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2008), 155.


educational, religious, or allegiance to Thailand’s monarchy were seen by