WALKING THE PATH OF PEACE -Phase-2
(An English translation of MENITI JALAN DAMAI -Fasa 2 http://www.deepsouthwatch.org/node/6884
A speech for PEACE MEDIA DAY at PATANI @ Prince of Songkhla University, Patani Campus - 28 February 2015)
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Peace be upon you all.
Praise be to Allah, once again here I am at this prestigious venue after one year to voice our opinion regarding the latest development in the peace dialogue process of Patani. For this I would like to thank the organizer of the PEACE MEDIA DAY at PATANI.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Two years ago, on this day, history was made in Kuala Lumpur where the General Consensus on Peace Dialogue Process was signed by Lt. Gen. Paradorn Patanathabut, the then Secretary General of the Thai National Security Council, representing the government of Thailand and Ustaz Hassan Taib of the BRN (the Barisan Revolusi Nasional or the National Revolutionary Front) representing the Patani freedom fighters. The signing ceremony was witnessed by Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab, the Secretary of the Malaysian National Security Council. Thus began the formal peace dialogue process between the government of Thailand and the Patani freedom fighters, while Malaysia assumed the role of the facilitator.
It was welcomed with high expectations by many that peace could be achieved through a dialogue process rather than by the use of violence or weapons. However, there were still some who doubted and were skeptical, or worse still ,opposed the positive move, including the Thai military leaders at that time, for reasons known only to themselves.
We were also aware that the budding peace process of less than one year old was suddenly to be tested by the abortive "Ramadhan Peace Initiatives" whereas both sides were not fully ready for such agreement yet, still rambling in darkness trying to understand and build trust with each other.
Finally, we all knew that the process was suspended with the withdrawal of Ustaz Hassan Taib as the head of BRN delegation and an announcement made by Lt. Gen.Paradorn to postpone the coming talk in view of escalating internal political crisis in Thailand, which eventually led to the military coup on 22 May 2014. There were concerns regarding the fate of the talk at that time. However, four months later the military government affirmed to continue the peace dialogue process and agreed to let Malaysia resume its role as the Facilitator.
Although there was no official response from the Patani freedom fighters, we believed that the signal sent by the military was a positive one. We agree that the continuation of this process should be based on the General Consensus signed two years ago as the foundation to move forward. As one of us opined, “perhaps certain terms or phrases need to be revised or even dropped, for these terms are irrelevant to the current Thai government such as the phrase "under the framework of the Thai Constitution" .The current Thai government rules through martial law, not the constitution."
As far as we are concerned, whether or not we engage ourselves in a talk with the military is not an issue. For the Thai administration, either military or civilian government, the de facto power is the military. The latest political development has brought us confronting them, the decisive element with highest authority. While it is difficult to gauge the military's sincerity, we will continue monitoring their actions in all aspects. We will be ready to talk to anyone as long as they are sincere and committed to the dialogue, whether a military or a civilian government. The peace dialogue process will be readily welcomed by all, especially the world public opinion, if it is organized in a democratic atmosphere under the rule of law rather than under the shadow of the junta.
We are, however, cautious. Ustaz Hassan Taib had previously proposed the peace dialogue process be endorsed by Thailand as a National Agenda, approved by the parliament and officially proclaimed. This would be able to reflect Thai sincerity and guarantees the continuity of the fragile process in the event of change of government in future. So far, this has yet to be seen. We do not want to see the process being suspended again or even collapsed, then resumed to change hands and approaches, every time "political accidents" occur in Thailand.
The official meeting of the Prime Ministers of Thailand and Malaysia in early December 2014 in Kuala Lumpur came up with three-pronged strategies for the talk. It goes to show that the related parties are committed to revive the process. Even though the Thai military has rebranded the talk as "the Happiness Talk" for reasons we clearly understand, at the dialogue table it is still officially regarded as "the Peace Talk".
Ladies and gentlemen,
To ensure smoothness and transparency of the process that will be soon resume we would like to cite the following observations:
1. The main goal of the peace dialogue process should not only be focused on reducing or eliminating violence, but rather on exploring the root causes and reasons why the Patani people had to raise arms to fight against the Thai rule as well.
2. Any political solution should not be beneficial for only certain parties, on certain aspects and on temporary basis, but must be just, comprehensive and sustainable.
3. Each party comes to the table "empty-handed" i.e. without any precondition that could place the other party in difficulties or at a disadvantaged position.
4. The process should start with trust building measures and will gradually move forward, only when both sides are ready, without pressure, with convincing sincerity to one another.
5. The Road Map should be jointly drafted by the two parties who are directly involved in the process, i.e. not determined by one party nor any other parties), observed and facilitated by the third party (the facilitator), so that mutual agreement can be reached on further steps to be taken.
6. Both sides will confer and agree on certain basic references that will be discussed throughout the entire process, within reasonable time-frame on all issues and in all stages. This would include mutual agreement on inviting other parties to the table as observers and/or supporters of the process.
7. The two parties will discuss and agree on practical measures to reduce acts of violence and armed hostilities followed by a limited or temporary cease-fire arrangement with the appointment of a monitoring team accepted by both.
8. Begin the peace dialogue on equal footings based on accepted international terms and standards.
9. Permanent ceasefire agreement will be reached with the signing of a peace accord, followed by the implementation of the detailed arrangements and recommendations contained within .
We can ,therefore, conclude that the peace dialogue process should start with trust building measures and drafting the road map together. This will be followed by mutual agreement on basic and important issues to be discussed in later stages. After the signing of the temporary cease-fire agreement , serious peace dialogue can proceed in a peaceful and favorable atmosphere that will eventually lead to a peace accord and its implementation.
Another important issue concerning the team members of Patani freedom fighters is the political immunity. The governments of Thailand and Malaysia should acknowledge and guarantee full immunity for them, not just the provision of safety measures. This will include full protection throughout the entire peace process, whether at venues of meetings, in transit or in their homes. Travelling into or out of any country, including Thailand, should be open, especially if it is related to the peace process .
We are aware that certain military apparatus under the 4th Region Army has started the "Happiness Talk Initiatives" at local level with the CSO and NGO activists for discussions and communicative sessions. We have no objection to that as long as there are no threats, intimidation or pressure on those who have different opinions from the state or the army. If the military government is sincere and open-minded, there should be no reason why people should not be given spaces and opportunities to express their views freely without any fear. This includes permission for local media and community radio stations to re-operate after being "silenced" following the military coup.
Earlier this month the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) and the Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) Region 4, together with senior retired officers, announced in Bangkok that the Junta has come close to unraveling the conflict in the South after a few months of taking power. We would like to caution that, it is absurd to conclude that a long standing conflict of more than 200 years can be solved in just a few months without a negotiation with the Patani freedom fighters who represent the Patani Malay people. It is a sheer illusion and day-dreaming. The latest bombing incidence in Narathiwat last week should be a wake-up call for all of us that there is no short-cut towards peace except through peace talk.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last but not least, we would like to stress again here that, in spite of widespread support for the peace dialogue process and high expectations from the people, it has to be reminded that the Peace Dialogue is meaningless if:
1. The military government just wants to achieve a reduction or elimination of violence without addressing the root causes of the political and armed conflict in Patani,
2. The weaknesses and failure of the previous process are not explored and rectified,
3. Injustice, political detention, selective persecution, extrajudicial killings and violation of human rights on Patani Malays are still rampant,
4. Freedom of speech, without pressure and intimidation, is not fully guaranteed for Patani Malay people to express their views and true desire,
5. The daily life of Patani people is suppressed and subjected to three draconian laws i.e. The Emergency Decree, the National Security Act and the Martial Law.
6. The Ancestral and Sovereign Rights over the land of Patani and the Right to Self-determination of its people are not discussed.
The peace dialogue process will take a long time and its path is a tortuous one. We had earlier emphasized that if both parties are sincere and are confident that the conflict could be resolved through a peaceful dialogue, it is prudent that we should start now rather than to continue fighting for another ten, twenty or fifty years, counting casualties and destructions on both sides, before we finally agree to come to talk at the table.
Finally, again I am offering a bunch of "Bunga Raya" to all peace-loving people, as a gesture of PEACE.
Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu
Abu Hafez Al-Hakim ,from outside the fence of Patani.
28 February 2015/ 9 Jamadil Awwal 1436H.