16. Understanding conflict and approaching peace in Southern Thailand

Presidential Address

Rev. Bro. Dr.Bancha Saenghiran f.s.g. 

President, Assumption University


        Honored guests, aistinguished participants, faculty and students: 

        First and foremost, let me welcome all of you to Assumption University and to this seminar in particular. 

In the long history, mankind has always been trying to find peace. Yet, peace seems to be elusiye, defying all our efforts to achieve it. According to historical records, wars usually take the form of a series of military campaigns between two opposing sides involving a dispute over sovereignty, territory, resources, religion, or ideology, amongst other issues. Wars seem as old as human society, and they certainly featured prominently in our recorded history. Many tribal societies engage in internecine strife. and warfare and it is typical for such groups to maintain warrior castes or militias.

Technology has played a role in the evolution of warfare. Inventions contribute to advances in different fields, but modern technology has greatly increased the potential cost and destructiveness of war.

Though at present there is no open or declared war, yet you can see eruptions and outbreaks or hostilities, such as bombings, shootings and other forms of violence in many parts of the world. The instances of belligerence, terrorism, of killings and shootings are too many and too widespread to be cited here. But the uprising in the southern part of Thailand , in provinces such as Pattani, Yala. Narathiwat is much closer to horne and the need to restore peace and harmony to the wartorn areas is an urgent necessily.

 Causes of War

If we include conflicts in the delinition of war then disruptions of peace can be observed in many parts of the world. Causes vary depending on location, parties involved and other circumstances. The parties either perceive immediate threat to sovereignty or they may have differences or grievances, an immediate need for essential provisions for survival (such as food, water, and other resources) or a long standing hatred between nations that has built up over a number of years. Religious disputes and ideological differences can also cause wars. We have also seen wars caused by some nations pursuing policies of global domination.

In the modern items we have seen wars launched in pursuit of new markets, of natural resources, and of wealth. In many cases wars serve the interests of the wealthy, the feudal lords or the nobility. Some social activists argue that materialism is the supreme cause of war. According to Malthusian theory, wars are caused by expanding populations and limited resources.

Whatever should be the causes of war, the effects of war are unprecedented casualties and destruction across the theatres of conflict. When asked what kind of weapons would be used to fight World War III, the physicist Albert Einstein replied:

         "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

Peace is commonly understood to mean the "absence of hostilities". Other definitions include freedom from disputes, harmonious relation and the absence of mental stress or anxiety, as the meaning of the word changes with context. However, there are others who would say that the absence of hostilities would refer to only those hostilities which are evident and that true peace only derives from the mind of each individual. A person's conception of "peace" is often the product of culture and upbringing. Based on realization that independence, freedom and justice is inherent to all nations, peace can be achieved when a nation fulfills its duty to choose, live and respect others.Many believe that peace is more than the absence of certain social maladies. From this perspective, peace requires not only the absence of violence but also the presence of justice, as articulated by world lenders like Mahatma Gandhi and others. Much more broad visions of peace than a mere "absence of war" or even a "presence of justice" require to be framed. Peace does not necessarily have to be something the humans might achieve "some day". Peace must be made an essential condition for humanity- - so that we can create and expand it in small ways in our everyday lives.

Since January 2004 the smoldering Malay Muslim insurgency in southern part of Thailand in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat has surfaced again resulting until now in the deaths of more than 1,300 people. The insurgency which was dormant since 1980's has come back threatening the peaceful development of Thailand as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation.

The emergence of insurgency in southern part of Thailand has become a soul searching situation for the Thai nation requiring us to find ways and means to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis, to rebuild friendly relations between the different ethnic and religious sections of the country and continue on the path of building civil society in Thailand

The Thai state has embarked on finding solution to the crisis in a multi-pronged manner undertaking political, security, cultural and religious initiatives hoping to bring back peace and harmony to the restive South soonest.

This unrest in southern part of Thailand has also attracted international attention from a variety of nations and groups who are anxiously watching the situation with a serious concern to see if it will escalate into a larger conflict.

The main problems facing Thailand today is how to bring about peace through national reconciliation which, recognizes the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic character of Thai polity at the national level. The recent report of the National Reconciliation Council led by the former Prime Minister Mr. Anand Panyarachun has made valuable recommendation which, if implemented seriously, will aid in building peace in the southern part of the country.

The main objective of this seminar is to offer a forum for Thai and international academicians and public figures to explain and discuss the historical background and the causes behind the unrest in southern part of Thailand and to offer suggestions about hom to build peace in that region.

The urgent concern for alll of us now is to find ways and means, and solutions to the conflict in the three southern provinces of Thailand.

How best to resolve the conflicts? This is the reason why we are assembled here today. We have to make methodical enquiries, engage in dialogue and discussions and search for solution to the problem. Unless the root cause of the problem can be identified, peace will never be achieved.

 Dear Participants:

Before we go ahead with finding peace for others, each one of us must find an inner peace. .It is a state of mind, body and soul, which is said to take place within ourselves. The feeding is not dependent on time, people, place, or any external object or situation. If each one of us here has an inner peace, then a chain reaction for both inner peace and world peace may be established and the conflicts in the South can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On this occasion, let me thank the initiatives of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and their generosity in sponsoring this seminar.

I sincerely hopc that this seminar will contribute significantly toward regaining mutual trust among the people of southern part of Thailand and that peace and harmony will soon return to the region.

         May I welcome you all once again to the seminar. Wish you success in your discussion and deliberations.

         May God Bless you with inner peace!