ISIS and FCCT events on the Deep South this week
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ISIS and FCCT events on the Deep South this week

On Wednesday, October 30 Chulalongkorn University’s ISIS have a public forum entitled “Peace Talks in Southern Thailand: Pathways, Obstacles and Prospects”. Extract of the blurb are below:

Program

08.30 – 09.00 a.m. Registration and Coffee
09.00 – 09.10 a.m. Opening Remarks
Prof. Dr. Supachai Yavaprabhas, Dean, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.10 – 10.50 a.m. Speakers:
Mr. Don Pathan, Director of Foreign Relations for the Patani Forum and Thailand-based Freelance Journalist and Analyst

Mr. Matthew Z. Wheeler, South East Asia Analyst, The International Crisis Group (ICG)

Mr. Danyal Abdulloh, A Malay-Muslim Activist and Campaigner

Dr. Srisompob Jitpiromsri, Director of Deep South Watch (DSW), Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus, Thailand
Member of Thai Negotiating Team in the Peace Talks

Moderator:
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of ISIS Thailand. Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

10.50 – 11.30 a.m. Open Forum

BP: By way of background, see BP’s three recent posts on the level of violence in the Deep South, Part 1 – Deaths; Part 2 – Injuries; and Part 3: Incidents – which are also available in an adapted form as a PDF from the ISIS Web site.

Both Don and Matthew have different views on the peace talks. Don Pathan in The Nation stated in an op-ed published October 24 that:

The government should postpone peace talks until verifiable and unified representatives of Malay-Muslim separatist groups come to the table

One of the things that Thailand asked of Hasan Taib, the designated “liaison” officer for the ongoing peace talks between the Thai authorities and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinate (BRN-C), was that he had to bring other Malay-Muslim separatist groups to the table.

Eight months after the February 28 “launch” in Kuala Lumpur, Thailand is still waiting for a credible and coherent opposition to come to the table.

The government desperately needs to show the public in a quantifiable way that the February 28 initiative is the right thing. Bringing more participants is one way. Another way is to bring the number of insurgent attacks down.

Public patience is declining because of the relentless violence on the ground by the current crop of separatist militants, who are indifferent to announcements that the Thai government is determined to resolve the conflict in the three southernmost provinces through peaceful dialogue.

Matthew Wheeler had a blog post at the Lowy Interpreter in August that stated:

Proponents of the dialogue process recognise that it is imperfect, beset by a lack of technical expertise and rifts on both sides of the table. But they see the talks as the beginning of a long process and the best available path forward. They are encouraged by Bangkok’s engagement with Malaysia as a partner, which is a departure from its habitual posture of mistrust. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government has demonstrated determination to sustain the process, demoting or removing high-ranking dialogue sceptics in a recent cabinet reshuffle.

This determination is laudable, and it will be tested in the days and weeks ahead. There is a risk that failed talks may strengthen the hand of those who believe that force can resolve the problem.

Crisis Group has long contended that the Thai Government should pursue dialogue and political decentralisation as means to resolve the insurgency, and both approaches are codified in Thailand’s current national security policy for the region. Whatever its shortcomings, the process has given further impetus to consideration of special administrative arrangements, which are now openly and irrevocably central to the discussion of how to end the violence. But a negotiated settlement is remote and will, for the foreseeable future, face the constraints imposed by Bangkok’s festering discord. It remains to be seen if powerful conservative forces within the Thai state can tolerate the kinds of administrative changes most likely to help resolve the conflict.

BP: Should be an interesting event.

Note, for ISIS events, you are meant to RSVP in advance to ensure you get  seat and the deadline was October 25, but have checked with ISIS and there are a few places left. If you want to attend you can telephone 02-218-7433.

On October 31 in the evening, the FCCT has a paid event (i.e it is not hosted by the FCCT) by the Asia Foundation. Below is the blurb:

The Asia Foundation, in a collaboration with the Patani Forum, an NGO from the Malay provinces in Southern Thailand, will organise a public event at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on October 31, 2013. The event will introduce two prominent community leaders — Artef Sohko, a youth activist, and Wan-Ahmad Wan-Kecik, director of Media Selantan, a community radio station based in Pattani — to FCCT members. The two speakers are community leaders in their own right and their views are often sought after.
Don Pathan, a member of the Patani Forum and a consultant for The Asia Foundation over the past three years, will moderate the event. The Asia Foundation’s Thailand Representative, Kim McQuay, will give the opening statement at the FCCT event.

SPEAKERS

Artef Sohko is a former Secretary-General of the Student Federation of Thailand and currently the Director of Foreign Affairs of The Academy of Patani Raya for Peace and Development. Artef is a well known youth leader in the Malay provinces of Thailand with huge followings from the grassroots community. His views and inputs about the conflict in the deep South are often sought after by local and foeign officials. His rally often draws more than 10,000 people at a time. In Artef’s view, peaceful and lasting reconciliation between the Malay speaking region and the Thai State can be achieve if the two sides work hard enough to identify the common ground that is base on mutual respect and acceptance.

Wan-Ahmad Wan-Kecik is the director of Media Selantan, a community radio station based in Pattani. The station has more than 4,000 volunteers assisting the outlet with information about the various incidents in their community. Beside being a call-centre for the people to voice their grievances and concern, Wan Ahmad has since March 2013 launched a radio program, Dunia Hari Ini (World Today), to promote a common ground for the people in the community to voice their views on the ongoing insurgency in this historically contested region. The program is regarded as a relatively “safe space” for people in the Deep South to present their views about the ongoing peace process between the government and separatist movements.

It has become one of the most followed radio program and the station plays an important role in bridging the gap between the key actors and stakeholders in the current peace talks, as well as among the people of the grass root level.

Lamai Managarn is the coordinator for Volunteer for Peace. She is a well known figure in the region with extensive experience and connection in the civil society network and international organizations working in this restive region.

MODERATOR:

Don Pathan is a freelance writer living in Yala, one of Thailand’s three southernmost provinces hit with an ongoing insurgency. He is member of the Patani Forum, a Pattani-based NGO that work to promote critical discussion on the ongoing conflict.

BP: The Asia Foundation event is quite different from the ISIS one…