Thailand: can PM Yingluck Shinawatra free Pattani?

The new PM could end the insurgency in the southern provinces.

The Thai King has endorsed Thaksin's younger sister Yingluck as prime minister, after the Pheu Thai party won recent elections, Abhisit Vejjajiva had conceded defeat and the army had declared there would be no military intervention.

There's much to heal in Thai society, between Thaksin's yellow-shirted, mainly rural supporters, and the red-shirted nationalists of Abhisit's Democratic Party.   Between the impoverished northern and eastern provinces like Isan on one hand, and the rapidly developing industrial heartlands joining Bangkok's urbanites on the other.

Yet a running sore continues in Pattani and two other southern provinces, where ethnic Malays predominate.  A new broom in government could sweep away the debris from this issue.  

The 1909 Anglo-Siamese Treaty laid the seeds of the rift by recognising Siam's sovereignty over Patani Darul Makrif, previously an independent Malay sultanate.  King Rama I, ruler of Siam until 1809, had absorbed this sultanate into his realm, and the subsequent deal with the British (controllers then of Malay states beyond the southern border) enabled Siam to claim international recognition of its enlarged territory.  However, it laid the foundations of what was later to become a protracted dispute.  The Thais split Patani Darul Makrif into three: Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.  And yet local Malays looked south for trade, cultural connection and inspiration.

Like so many historical disputes based on culture and language, a simple resolution is never easy.  And modern Malaysia has wisely steered clear of involvement.  Yet the Thais continue to stamp unwanted authority on the region, and might be advised to hold a referendum there on its future allegience.  

Yingluck Shinawatra has numerous pressing issues to address, no doubt.  But the continued insurrection in southern provinces could end if democratic tools were employed to effect.  There are international precedents to draw on as examples: 
  • A 1955 plebiscite in the Saarland resolved the long-running dispute between Germany and France over the region's sovereignty when locals opted for statehood within the Federal Republic
  • The same occurred to Germany's north when in 1920 two referendums were held in Schleswig, with the north voting to join Denmark and the centre opting to join the south and remain in Germany.  This ended a territorial dispute between Germans and Danes which had caused wars in 1848-51 and again in 1864.
If a vote on sovereignty was good enough for them, would it not be right for Thais?

Check out all commentaries here.

No comments:

Post a Comment