Photo from ABC news
How would you feel, if one day, you were forced to learn a language, to behave in a certain way, and become part of a country you had no desire to be part of?
More than 9,000 miles from Boston, and 7,000 miles from Syria, this situation is fueling a hidden war in the land of smiles.
Thailand, known for its hospitality, elephants, and scenic nature, rarely comes to mind when one thinks of a war-stricken country. In actuality, ever since 1902, when Thailand annexed part of Malaysia, this secret war has been raging on. As of this year, it has claimed over 5,300 lives, and injured countless others.
In the districts of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, the three most southern-most, poorest regions of Thailand (which was originally part of Malaysia), the Malays were forced to assimilate fully into Thai culture, with some suppression of their own culture from the government.
Ever since the 1950s, anti-government groups have been fighting for their cultural rights and their freedom from Thailand. Wouldn’t you do the same, if you were part of a country that didn’t treat you like equal citizens?
I remember, when I first heard about this war, I scrunched up my nose and asked, “Are you serious? There’s a war?” I have never seen or heard anything that would signify a war in my home country. In the same way, most teenagers and most people outside the Southern provinces are unaware of this war, and this contributes to the bleak situations for the Malay Thais.
One wonders, why is this war kept secret to the extent it is? For those that are anti-Muslim, this war signifies a threat to Southeast Asia. For those, like me, who are pro-peace, pro-human rights, the situations of the people in the South show a break in human rights going on in the world today. Either way, this war has messages to say, and we need to listen.
This war shows the dark side of Thailand, the one that do not give the people of the South equal voice, and responds to any attacks by attacking. It takes two to continue a conflict, and the government should be the one trying to amend any human rights violations they have or are doing to these people.
I believe that people only resort to violence when that is the only option left to them in order to be heard. It is sad to know that it takes 5,300 casualties to finally sign a peace treaty between the Thai government and the Muslim separatist groups, and even 5,300 casualties are not enough to catch international attention.
On February 28, 2013, ten years after the bloodshed started, a major breakthrough came in the form of a peace treaty. However, is it as effective as hoped?
According to the Nation, no.
I think the government needs to do more than simply sign a piece of paper; that piece of paper doesn’t mean much for the people who are the ones shooting the guns and fighting for their religious and cultural freedoms. The government needs to create results and signs of Muslim acceptance that the people on the ground can feasibly see. This may take the form of more mosques, better education, more government positions for Muslims, and more subsidies to the industries in the three provinces.
With the recent bombings and the identification of a Muslim suspect, I sincerely hope that the government pushes forward with their attempts to give human rights to the provinces. Not all Muslims want to wreck havoc for the sake of wrecking havoc; we must ask, what is it with the system they have been placed in, to force them to such violence?