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Behind the Insurgent Attack in Southern Thailand
Behind the Insurgent Attack in Southern Thailand
Table of Contents
  1. Map of Thailand
Thai EOD personnel inspect the site of a bomb attack in Thailand's troubled southern province of Pattani, on 5 July 2016. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthamon
Briefing 148 / Asia

泰国南部的和平对话:缺乏牵引力

发生在泰国七个旅游城镇的八月爆炸事件预示了冲突区域的扩散。与此同时,和平对话的进程也失去了势头。若要令和谈重返正轨,分散的武装分子必须放弃企图通过暴力获胜,且政府必须承诺提供一个全面的解决方案,包括分权制度和认可深南地区作为马来穆斯林的身份。

概述

泰国军政府和部分流亡中的马来穆斯林分离主义领袖之间的和平对话陷入了僵局。2016年8月,几个地处深南的旅游区遭到了协调式的爆炸袭击,且其都并非发生在此前就动乱频繁的区域。这些爆炸事件带有分离主义分子的特征,还意味着政府对暴乱的控制手段并无效果。在2014年政变中得权的(NCPO)声称,其支持但不承诺通过对话结束暴乱;泰国总理曾就谈判提出质疑,且主要的暴力团伙也拒绝对话。该团伙是2015年为与政府谈判而建立的联盟,其究竟控制了多少成员却是不得而知。建立分权式政体不仅可以为马来穆斯林带来民族认同感和志向,还能以此缓和冲突并维护国家统一。然而,政府和反动武装分子都保持敌对而不妥协的态度,双方的谈判僵局也因此难以打破。八月发生在深南地区的爆炸事件则应督促政府为达成全面协议而寻求对话。

自夺权以来,国家和平秩序委员会便为了治理这个政治分歧的国家而费尽心思,随着国王普密蓬•阿杜德七十年的统治即将结束,泰国也渐临着不确定因素。尽管军方反对由英拉·西瓦拉政府于2013年开启的对话进程,但国家和平秩序委员会仍应允了会重新促成对话,并邀请了马来西亚为此进行协调。然而,国家和平秩序委员会也面临着矛盾:一方面,其需要向当地人民和国际社会证明它在做正事,另一方面,其也担心和平对话会予以分裂主义分子合法地位,并为国际介入和最终国家分裂铺路。

2016年3月,在经过两次全体会议和三轮技术洽谈后,国家和平秩序委员会的谈判队伍与“马拉北大年”(MARA Patani)——“北大年舒拉议会”(Majlis Syura Patani)是反动者为与曼谷当局进行谈判而于2015年建立的联盟——初步达成一致,并同意在八项条例(ToR)的基础上,开启正式对话的通道。但仅一个月之后,泰国军方便突然调走了谈判队伍的干事,而八项条例正是在此干事领导下达成的。在四月二十七日于吉隆坡召开的会议中,泰方谈判队伍以需要重审文件为由拒绝签字,并质疑马拉北大年参加正式对话的资格。尽管双方在9月2日再次举行了会议,但和平对话的进程仍停留在非正式的初级阶段。

在措施采取上,国家和平秩序委员会更倾向于说服武装分子投降,而不是与其流亡领导人达成协议。政府在全国范围内抑制了政治参与、暂停了选举并剥夺了公民自由。另外,国家和平秩序委员会照承诺应在2017年后期举行大选,因此上述举措亦是在为选后的长期持政奠定基础。而其对政治活动的禁止也使政府就反动分子应放弃暴力、为和平变革努力的论调变成了空话。随着当地的公民社会受到更多压制,依靠民众意愿来推动坦诚对话的前景也愈加渺茫。

武装分子内部的分裂和狭隘主义也限制了两方展开实质对话。支持对话的成员认为一旦该进程展现出好势头,那其它派系自会参加。但亦由很多观察者质疑了马拉北大年当下代表大规模武装分子的能力。“民族革命阵线”(Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani, BRN)是其中主要的反动组织,一些马拉北大年的高层声虽称隶属于该组织,但却未得到组织领导层的认可。民族革命阵线质疑了国家和平秩序委员会的诚意,并明确坚持和谈必须要有外国观察员在场。这也进而加深了泰国当局对国际介入的顾虑。另外,目前尚无迹象表明,伊斯兰国(IS)或国际圣战主义者与泰国的马来民族独立主义武装分子之间存在勾结。

分裂的局势和谈判能力受限虽对和谈造成了重大的障碍,但更迫切的挑战却是双方缺乏协商的决心。国家和平秩序委员会看似仅仅有意做出一副对话的姿态,并反对任何涉及分权的解决办法;民族革命阵线尚未进化成一个可作为对话基础的政治平台;而马拉北大年则还未展示出其在地面的影响力。目前困境的严峻程度尚且不足以令各方求和心切,并诉诸于紧急谈判;然而8月11日到12日发生的爆炸事件却显示出武装分子在对人命、财产和经济造成更大损害上的能力。政府应当认识到这种威胁并重新考虑对话模式。而武装分子则应意识到,若任战火蔓延并继续针对旅游区,那他们不仅将面对曼谷当局不余遗力的武力回应,还会备受国际社会的谴责。

曼谷/布鲁塞尔,2016年9月21日

Members of a bomb squad inspect the site of an attack by suspected Muslim militants in Yala province on 6 November 2019. AFP/Tuwaedaniya Meringing
Q&A / Asia

Behind the Insurgent Attack in Southern Thailand

On 5 November, insurgents in southern Thailand staged their deadliest attack in years, killing fifteen people. Crisis Group’s South East Asia Senior Analyst, Matt Wheeler, explains what happened and what it means for the stagnant peace-dialogue process.

What happened, and why is it significant?

On the night of 5 November, at least twenty gunmen attacked a security checkpoint in Lam Phaya sub-district in Yala, Thailand’s southernmost province, killing fifteen people and wounding four others. Many of those killed were Village Defence Volunteers, civilians whom the interior ministry pays to perform part-time security duties in villages across the insurgency-plagued region. Also among the victims were a former sub-district chief, a police adviser to the defence volunteers, the sub-district physician and civilian bystanders; the dead include both Muslims and Buddhists. Militants bombed a nearby power pylon, felled trees and scattered nails to delay security forces and rescuers responding to the attack. The assailants fled, taking with them small arms captured from the victims.

Ethnic Malay Muslim militants have been fighting the state for decades in the Muslim-majority south of Thailand, which otherwise is mostly Buddhist.

Ethnic Malay Muslim militants have been fighting the state for decades in the Muslim-majority south of Thailand, which otherwise is mostly Buddhist. The militants seek independence and an end to what they see as Thai colonialism. Their insurgency is rooted in ethnic Malay nationalist resistance to Thai rule that followed the extension of Siamese sovereignty over the Patani sultanate at the beginning of the twentieth century. Violence has largely been confined to the country’s three southernmost provinces, Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, as well as the four south-eastern districts of Songkhla province. Muslims account for roughly 85 per cent of the population in these areas. The insurgent movement is distinguished by its secrecy and reluctance to assert an organisational identity. Insurgents tend to identify simply as juwae (fighters) rather than as members of a particular militant group. It remains a parochial nationalist insurgency – distinct from transnational jihadist movements – in which Islam is foremost a marker of Malay cultural identity.

The 5 November attack is remarkable for two reasons. First, it was the deadliest since late 2001, when the longstanding insurgency reignited after a lull in the 1990s. Although insurgent ambushes, bombings and assassinations have claimed more than 7,000 lives since then, militants have never before killed so many in a single raid. Secondly, it took place amid a decline in the pace and intensity of militant violence over the past several years. From a high of 892 fatalities in 2007, the death toll fell to 218 in 2018, the lowest since 2004. It remains to be seen whether the 5 November attack was an aberration or sign of renewed insurgent potency.

What signal are militants sending with this attack?

Any effort to assign particular motives to the Lam Phaya attackers is speculative at this stage. The strongest insurgent group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu-Patani (Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front, or BRN) is highly secretive and rarely accessible to the media. It never claims responsibility for its actions. The attack may best be understood as a demonstration by militants of their ability to conduct operations and inflict losses, in spite of the decline in violence in recent years. It also highlights that, whatever the government may say, the insurgent campaign is far from over. Apart from the high death toll, the raid was wholly typical of attacks that have been routine in the region since 2004: coordinated use of small arms and improvised explosive devices; diversionary attacks; theft of weapons; and hit-and-run tactics.

A more immediate possible motive may be retribution for the 25 August death in army custody of an insurgent suspect, Abdulloh Isomuso. Abdulloh was detained for interrogation on 20 July and fell into a coma the following day. The case is emblematic of the persistent human rights abuses that feed Malay Muslim grievances and the failure of authorities to hold officials to account.

Another possibility is that militants are seeking leverage in advance of prospective dialogue with Thai authorities. BRN would not want to enter talks with the government perceiving it as a spent force.

What is the state of play in the peace-dialogue process?

The official peace-dialogue process that brings together the Thai government and the Patani Consultative Council (Majlis Syura Patani, better known as MARA Patani), an umbrella group of Malay nationalist organisations in exile, is moribund. Talks have been stalled since April 2018, and MARA Patani formally suspended its participation in February 2019 until after the Thai general election the following month. After the suspension, the head of the separatist delegation, Shukree Haree, resigned, questioning Thailand’s sincerity in conducting dialogue. Shukree has not been replaced. General Udomchai Thammasarorat, former chief of the Thai dialogue delegation, did not meet with MARA Patani during his year-long tenure, which ended on 1 October. His successor, former National Security Council director-general Wanlop Rugsanaoh, has given no indication that dialogue will soon resume. The process is beset by Thai concerns that MARA Patani does not represent fighters inside Thailand and militant suspicions that Thai authorities are using the dialogue primarily as a public relations exercise.

Malaysia, which shares a border with Thailand and is home to many exiled Patani Malay militants, serves as facilitator of the dialogue.

Malaysia, which shares a border with Thailand and is home to many exiled Patani Malay militants, serves as facilitator of the dialogue. Although militant leaders and Thai officials alike agree that Kuala Lumpur must be involved, at least some in each cohort question whether Malaysia can be an impartial mediator. Many militants in exile resent the reported Malaysian pressure on BRN to join the MARA Patani process. For their part, some Thai officials suspect that Malaysia’s sympathies lie with the militants, given that so many are in exile there.

BRN’s refusal to participate has badly impaired the Thailand-MARA Patani dialogue. Though there are individual BRN members in MARA Patani, the mainstream of BRN has refused to join. The group is not opposed to talks in principle, but it adheres to a 2013 list of five conditions for participation in peace talks, among which are mediation by a disinterested third party and inclusion of international observers. Thailand, however, rejects these conditions.

Senior Thai officials have also discounted the possibility of political autonomy or decentralisation in southernmost Thailand, with some insisting on a resolution tantamount to BRN’s capitulation. Since the coup that brought a military junta to power in 2014, the Thai government has further centralised authority. The formal return of parliamentary rule in June 2019 has done little to change the complexion of the government, which remains dominated by junta figures who regard decentralisation as a slippery slope toward partition and a threat to national sovereignty.

How can the peace process be revived?

The existing dialogue process appears to have reached a dead end, but Thai authorities are quietly seeking back channels to militants outside MARA Patani. This development is encouraging, given that resolution of the conflict in southernmost Thailand will inevitably require the participation of BRN’s majority faction. But a meaningful, substantive dialogue will require a reboot of the process on terms acceptable to both sides. Such an approach must grapple with the need for an impartial mediator, while still according a role to Kuala Lumpur, and clarify which entities on each side can offer credible guarantees. Only then will it be possible to begin the arduous work of achieving a political compromise that can bring an end to the violence.

Map of Thailand

CRISISGROUP