Current Pattani [one of the provinces in the Deep South] resident Jason Johnson has an interesting article for Asia Times about how many miss the nuances in the Deep South and apply broad brushstrokes when talking about those who live there. The opening:

Since the dramatic upsurge of violence in the predominantly Muslim provinces of southern Thailand in 2004, many have simplified portrayals of the ethnic Malay Muslim population. That’s led to widespread misconceptions about the spiraling conflict, including that nearly all of the minority group harbor Patani [1] Malay Muslim nationalist sentiment and resentment towards the Thai state.

Whether the international mass media, counter-insurgency experts, human-rights activists, or even accomplished academics, it has become commonplace to assert that Malay Muslims resent the Thai state for its culturally insensitive assimilation and heavy-handed security policies that over the years have undermined their identity and aspirations.

Although these portrayals hold true for many Malay Muslims, they also overlook the affective connection that many in the region have for Thailand, the dearth of passion for the grand narrative of a Patani Malay Muslim nationalist struggle versus the Bangkok-centric Thai state, and widespread animosity towards the insurgents, who have played a prominent role in transforming the region into a war zone.

One other excerpt:

In the highly charged context of “separatist” insurgents fighting to gain political autonomy and to protect and salvage Patani Malay Muslim identity, many intellectuals cannot manage to perceive Malay Muslims at worst as anything less than innocent victims of a Thai state that has treated them as second-class citizens and disregarded their grievances, or at best as noble resistors to the state.

BP: One thing that BP has long wondered is how much of the outrage is manufactured outrage. Jason implicitily argued that the outrage is not as widespread as some make it out to be.

Compared to the ’70s or early ’80s, there is more religious freedom, access to education, and greater opportunities for those in the Deep South. It is not as though the Thai state has become more regressive since then, but the violence has increased. Questions that remain unanswered, what do the insurgents want? Although, just as important, what do some of the ideological sympathisers want? It is really the moderates who may sympathize with some of the insurgents aims, but not join in for a variety of reasons.