PEACE TALK at crossroad

Abu Hafez Al-Hakim's picture


PEACE TALK at Crossroad

By : Abu Hafez Al-Hakim

( An English translation of : BICARA DAMAI di persimpangan jalan :


The last official meeting of the KL Peace Dialogue Process was on 13 June 2013.  The Ramadhan  Initiative that aimed  to reduce violence from both sides had  evidently  failed. The release of a  video clip via the Youtube  on 6 August  2013 proclaiming the resolution  of The BRN's  Shura Council  regarding the Peace  Dialogue Process by members of the  BRN Armed Forces  has  reaffirmed  the speculation  of  some parties that the process is heading towards a dead end.  It was earlier rumored that  the Chief  of  BRN Delegation , Ustaz Hassan Toyib, will be discharged  and replaced with another. In fact, some  also viewed   the BRN was  looking  for an exit  out of this process  because a considerable  number of its leaders disagree  with the procedure  and direction of the process.

 At the end of August 2013 the Thai party   requested detailed clarification on  the  5 Preliminary Demands of BRN  through  the Malaysian facilitator. The reply , a 24-pages document  (a total of 38 pages in the form of power-point ) from the BRN,  explained  each of the demands in details.  Although the  Thais  took  quite some time to review, discuss  and agree  to its contents amongst some of the related government agencies, by October the response  letter  finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur.

It  was  understood  that the  letter from the Head of Thai Delegation, Lt. General  Paradorn  to the Malaysian Facilitator dated  25 October 2013 pointed out that the  5 Preliminary Demands are accepted  for further discussion. In addition, the Thais  also proposed  2 additional  issues in relation to this process. The  first  was that both sides would  work together towards reducing  violence, and  the second , a cooperation in the field of development  for  a  fair distribution of income among people of various ethnic groups and religions.

By the end of October 2013 a copy of the letter was delivered to the Head of BRN Delegation by the Malaysian   facilitator, who was highly optimistic  of  the "positive" respond  that  would  pave a way to kick-start  the months long stalled peace process. 

The content of the letter was conveyed  to  the  leadership of the BRN and the field operators . After  profound  review and discussion  they concluded  that  the  explanation by  the Thais neither meet nor conform to the fighters' expectation.  In the first paragraph of  Paradorn's  letter  he stated that  "the five issues are acceptable for further discussion". This could mean, after  thorough discussion by both parties  in the subsequent  official  meetings  ,  the five demands   can either  be accepted or rejected.

The introductory of the 5 Preliminary  Demands  of  BRN clearly stated : "A request for the government of Thailand to agree, in principle, to the five demands ...". The fighters  felt  that  the Government of Thailand  must first  agree to  accept , in principle , all the demands . In subsequent meetings , each  of the  agreed  demand  will be thoroughly explored and negotiated  further,  without rejecting any of the demands.

Thai  Government's  acceptance , in principle, of the five demands   should then  be presented  to the Thai Parliament  to be approved  as a national agenda, before further detailed discussion in official meetings of the peace dialogue  can take place . This would serve as a  guarantee  so that everything  that is agreed upon in future  discussions  will not be rejected by the Thai Parliament . Therefore, an endorsement  for the  Thai Parliament's acceptance of  the five demands as a national agenda  is vital.

On the night of 1 December 2013 the BRN  posted  another video clip   entitled  "Penjelasan dan Penegasan " meaning  clarification and affirmation, which by now is widely  circulated in the Youtube. It was to affirm  that  they  would abide by  the Shura Council's decisions as announced by the members  of BRN armed forces  on August 6, 2013. It  is  interesting  to note that  the announcement  made by Ustaz Hassan Toyib  himself raised questions when  he referred   himself to as the former  BRN delegation.  After months of uncertainty  and  rumors  of him  being  sidelined   as the Head of BRN Delegation  , has it  now become a reality?  Could this be a signal that the BRN is quietly withdrawing  from the peace talk ?

Whatever happened  behind the scene concerning this unexpected  development is purely internal matters  that  should  be prudently resolved by  BRN . Members on the table from other movements (PULO and BIPP) who support  this process ,with BRN being the dominant  , will have to respect  BRN's decision.

At this juncture, officially,  the peace process is temporarily suspended  but not collapsed  . Regarding its  latest  video clip ( followed by a  Facebook posting ) the  BRN  should  provide clear and official explanation  stating its true intention to the Thais, through the facilitator. This was  agreed upon from the outset of the process , that all views , suggestions and protests  from any party  will only be accepted  when they are  officially presented in the meetings or  channeled  through  the Facilitator. Any statement  made through mass media, let alone the social media, will not be taken into consideration as an official statement.

 The Thais too are facing  tough  challenges  at home. For a  few months  the government has been pressured  by  the  opposition  mob, challenging  the credibility and legitimacy  of the alleged "puppet" government  of the  ex-Prime Minister Thaksin. The battered   Prime Minister  Yingluck Shinawatra  finally  had  to  dissolve the  Parliament on  9 December 2013,  returning the   power  to the Thai people calling for  a  fresh   general election  scheduled on  2 February 2014, less than two months from now.

In the context of  the peace dialogue process, the  latest development  in Bangkok raised many uncertainties . What is the fate of this process in the future?  Will the fall  of the Prime Minister Yingluck's  Government  that  spearheaded  the peace dialogue,  affect the process?   What if there is a change of government  from the parties  other than the  Yingluck- led  Pheuthai  Party?  Will the peace talk continue?   How long  will it take to resume  the peace talk  until a new government is formed after the general election and  the situation in   Bangkok returns  to normal and stable?  Or most importantly , will the  scheduled general election on 2 February 2014 be held at all or  postponed to a later  date?

It now seems that the BRN's concern about the continuation of the peace process  in the event of a change of government in Bangkok is relevant after all. That is why the fighters repeatedly pointed out that an approval and endorsement  from the Parliament of Thailand for 5 Preliminary Demands  as  a national agenda is necessary  to avoid this process being  abandoned  if  there is a change of government.

In conclusion , the Peace Process of Patani still stands, currently at a crossroad, stopped by the "red light". With uncertainty on the  Patani fighters' side and chaotic situation  in Thailand ,it will likely take some  time  for the red light to turn green, to enable the  process  moves  forward.  Obstacles and difficulties in any  peace process is considered  a norm, and is indeed   expected. The situation is actually a challenge for both sides  who  have  chosen  the path of peace to find a solution out of this crisis, wisely and successfully.

Although the talks in track 1 has been suspended, the social activists, the NGOs and CSOs  should  double their efforts to continue to provide understanding and to gain the much needed  support  from the people, as a "safety net" , to avoid the collapse of the process. Strong desire and support of the people  who  want to see this process  moves forward  could  "force"  both  opposing parties  back to the negotiation table. If this happens, then the people will be considered the true and active stake-holder who are  able to determine the direction of  the  process  to achieve peace, without merely depending  on the Thai Government, or the fighters or facilitators to determine their future.


Vinegar and Honey-from outside the fence of Patani

Safar 1435 H/December 2013 M