Sunday, June 23, 2024

Valentines from Deep South – Day Three

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Day Three. Sunday, 15 February 2015

Yesterday was a day of investment. Today is my payback day. Naturally, I aim to take as much as I can especially when Dr Chaiwat is the speaker today.


So the first thing I do after breakfast – a fine local dish called Khao Yam (rice salad) – is to look up about him in my smart phone.

I’m not disappointed. After listening to his presentation at the University of Michigan in 2009, I’m getting a better picture of the Deep South.

According to him, the former Pattani Sultanate, which is now divided into 3 provinces with another 4 districts in the neighboring Songkhla, has a population of 1.8 million: 300,000 of them Buddhists and the rest Malay Muslims.

The land was occupied (“colonized” according to locals) by Bangkok in 1785. Since 1902, when common law for all tributary states under its sovereignty was imposed (in order to ward off colonization by British and French), violence had begun.

While the majority, not different from Shans, are for Independence, others are calling for autonomy. However the problem here is that the word “autonomy” (meaning “to give oneself one’s own law”), to Bangkok that has adopted decentralization in its unitary state, has become a sort of anathema for it, rather like Burmese leaders to Federalism until 2 years back.

On the other hand, Dr Chaiwat, who is Muslim but not a Malay Muslim like his hosts here, had suggested 3 conditions for autonomy:

•    One, the Deep South must be a democracy. It must have an elected legislature and government.

•    Two, it must accept the monarchy (presumably a substitute for non-secession)

•    Three, it must take responsibility for the Buddhist minority in the Deep South, see that their rights are not violated and they enjoy same rights as the Muslim majority

But to do this, Thailand will need “a new type of citizens”, he said, not only on the side of the Buddhist majority but also on the side of the Muslim minority.

Having learned about him has the other fringe benefit, because when we are introduced to each other before leaving for the campus, we become sort of chummy. Not to be outdone, he also surprises me by saying he knows Hso Khan Fa (1211-1264), the Shans’ most celebrated warrior king, whose power extended to Asssam in the West, Dali in the northeast,  Luang Phrabang in the east, and almost all of today’s Burma and northern Thailand in the north.

His lecture is about Non-killing, a new creed that appears to be the outgrowth of Gene Sharpe’s study and use of strategic nonviolent revolution in conflicts, which are quite familiar to Burmese activists.

“It is not guns that change the world,” he told his listeners. “It is not by using them that we can change it.”

He gives us the following two graphics:


But then it is noon and I have to leave for the airport in Hatyai.

On the way, the student who says he has applied to join the University of Chiangmai asks me what my thoughts are about Dr Chaiwat’s lecture. And this is what I tell him. “I think of Prophet Mohammed who employed both violent and non-violent methods as the situation called for.

I also think of the ongoing peace process. I ask myself: would there be a peace process at all, if the non Burmans don’t have arms to fight against the Burma Army? I remember what George Washington had said: To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace. I think having a strong force also useful to preserving the non-violent process, at least in Burma’s case.

Six hours later, I’m back in Chiangmai to face with a new crisis for the peace process: the escalation of war in Kokang and the announcement of martial law there.

Well, “tit for tat” not “turning the other cheek” is still the order of the day here. Peace is an uphill job for all peacemakers.

But one thing’s sure. If you don’t do it, don’t expect it to handed on a plate by anybody.

Hey, the world doesn’t belong to me alone, I remind myself for the zillionth time and go to bed.

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