PEACE TALK at Crossroad
By : Abu Hafez Al-Hakim
( An English translation of : BICARA DAMAI di persimpangan jalan : http://www.deepsouthwatch.org/ms/node/5042.
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