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While the establishment of MARA Patani and its role in the peace talks with the Thai state is positive, the group never addresses the injustices done to Malay Muslims, said a former Deep South youth activist leader.  

As unofficial peace negotiations between the Thai state and MARA Patani, a coalition of Deep South insurgent groups, move ahead, Suhaimee Dulasa, former President of the Federation of Patani Students and Youth (PerMas), on Sunday, 6 March 2016, posted a message on his Facebook page, saying that there are several problems which the organisation has not addressed.

“MARA Patani accepts the discussion with the military government, which is against the principles of democracy since the beginning and this unavoidably has a direct effect on the political demands of Patani people,” wrote Suhaimee.  

The former PerMas leader added “MARA Patani never talks publicly and seriously about the uncivilised ways in which the Thai state has treated Patani people.”

He further criticised the role of Malaysia in the informal peace talks, saying that the Malaysian government should have strictly maintained the role of facilitator without stating its stand.

“This made us understood that Malaysia has a certain agenda with the Thai state regarding business interests along the [Deep South] border,” Suhaimee speculated.

The former PerMas leader also suggested that the lack of unity inside MARA Patani is another major problem that must be solved if MARA Patani wants to gain more support from civil society groups in the region.

Suhaimee also criticised the three demands of MARA Patani, to which the Thai state must agree prior to the start of the formal peace talks, saying that the demands only serve the goals of the MARA Patani leadership, but not of the Patani people.

On MARA Patani’s silence towards injustices perpetrated by Thai state authorities in the region, Suhaimee illustrated his claim with the confiscation of the land of Jihad Pondok (Islamic school) in Yaring District of Pattani.   

On 14 February, the Waemanor family, who had been running Jihad Pondok, had to pack up their belongings after the court issued an order to confiscate the land on which their house and the school were located.

The Civil Court in December 2015 ruled to confiscate the land under the 1999 Anti-Money Laundering Act after an 11-year legal battle. Two Deep South insurgent suspects alleged that they were trained to use weapons on the school grounds and Dor-loe Waemanor, former principal of Jihad Pondok, who is also alleged to be an insurgent suspect, fled the country.

On the confiscation, Don Pathan, a former reporter of the Nation who is an expert on the Deep South conflict, wrote on Patani Forum that many local activists think that the closure of Jihad Pondok might deepen distrust between Muslim communities in the region and the Thai state.

“The forced closure of Jihad Pondok gives a perfect advantage to the separatist movement because it will deepen the distrust between the Thai state and the local people in Pattani which the Thai state has been trying to win over for a long time,” Don wrote.

Last month, Bernama, a Malaysian government media organization, reported that the peace negotiations between MARA Patani, an umbrella organisation of insurgent groups in Thailand’s Deep South, and the Thai state have shown progress.

The Malaysian media reported that the latest meeting between the two parties was on the Terms of References (TOR) before formal peace negotiations could start.

Don, however, wrote on Patani Forum that the prospects for formal peace talks between the two parties are still uncertain because the Thai state is still reluctant to accept MARA Patani as an equal partner at the negotiating table.

Moreover, despite the fact that two key members of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the most active insurgent group in the region, are represented in MARA Patani, it is clear that the two do not have authority over the activities of the BRN.

Suhaimee Dulasa, former President of The Federation of Patani Students and Youth (PerMas)

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