In June and July 2016, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) conducted an exploration in Southern Thailand to assess the situation and how NP could support the protection of civilians in the conflict-affected region. The following article discusses our findings.
The origins of violent conflict in South Thailand between insurgency groups fighting for independence in the Deep South and the Thai government can be traced back to at least the1960s. However, violence has intensified significantly since 2001. As with most contemporary violent conflicts, the dynamics are complex. The vertical conflict between the government and insurgents is further exacerbated by conflicts at a community level. Tensions exist between different religious and ethnic groups and there are rivalries within the same identity groups.
Civilians are deeply affected by the insecurity. Daily violence includes assassinations, bombings, roadside attacks, and arson attacks. People fear pursuing their daily activities, resulting in a loss of livelihoods.
In particular, schools and teachers are targeted, impacting children’s safety and access to education. More than 200 schools have been bombed or burnt down over the past 12 years and more than 182 teachers have been killed.
(Published Sept. 12, 2016) There is a desperate need for international support for civilian protection. NP has the capacity and expertise on unarmed civilian protection which could be shared with local community members and civil society organizations. With support, local individuals and groups can leverage their existing networks and structures to provide sustainable civilian protection while maintaining ownership.
NP could complement local efforts by providing protective presence, protective accompaniment as well as facilitating the establishment of, and advocating for, safety zones. By doing so, civilian safety would be improved; daily activities and livelihoods could be pursued and children could go to school without fear.
NP’s bottom up approach could have a sustained impact. Our focus on building relationships and engaging with civil society groups such as the Deep South Watch, could help to mitigate inter-communal tensions and result in a greater sense of security for civilians in vulnerable communities.
NP could also address the vertical conflict through our presence and ability to build confidence with key parties. Our ability to build trust, engage multiple parties in dialogue and shuttle diplomacy would be a unique fit for the context of Southern Thailand.
Please stay tuned to hear more about how our work progresses.