An analysis of the role of civil society in building peace in ethno-religious conflict: A case study of the three southernmost provinces of Thailand
Boonpunth, K. C. (2015). An analysis of the role of civil society in building peace in ethno-religious conflict: A case study of the three southernmost provinces of Thailand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9228
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9228
The ‘Southern Fire’ is an ethno-religious conflict in the southernmost region of Thailand that has claimed thousands of innocent lives since an upsurge in violence in 2004. Although it does not catch the world’s attention as much as other conflict cases in the same region, daily violent incidents are ongoing for more than a decade. The violence in the south has multiple causes including historical concerns, economic marginalisation, political and social issues, religious and cultural differences, educational opportunity inequities, and judicial discrimination. According to a framework for conflict resolution, for Thailand’s case, the state’s policy alone could not resolve the conflict as it focused mainly on implementing a ‘peacekeeping’ strategy by increasing the number of security forces and pursuing a ‘peacemaking’ strategy via peace talks. However, to create lasting peace in this region, civil society actors need to be involved in a ‘peacebuilding’ strategy in order to keep the balance of socio-economic structures and prevent violence from happening again. More than a hundred civil society groups are involved in attempting to build peace in the southernmost provinces. Since the resurgence of violence, some civil society groups have accumulated their experiences and played significant roles in the area. These groups have become a strong network which could reduce the tensions in this region. The research aims to promote the civil society sector as a tool of a non-violent approach; to study the role of the civil society sector in building peace in the southernmost provinces; and to strengthen civil society groups attempting to find a solution to the insurgent problem. This research used the qualitative method employing in-depth interviews and documentary research. The data was collected through person-to-person interviews with representatives of twenty-nine civil society groups. This research examines the role of the civil society sector in building peace in southern region; the efficacy of civil society groups; the problems of civil society groups active in the south; and puts forward recommendations on how to improve the work of the civil society groups. One of the main findings was that bridge-builder, academic and relief worker are the most significant roles civil society groups play. The efficacy of the civil society sector in peacebuilding in the deep south shows that it has the potential to grow. It has a number of strong internal factors and many external opportunities that can increase capabilities and help the groups to perform better. There are, however, four important problems including human resources, time management, influence from funding sources, and political and safety issues, which can have a serious impact on the civil society sector. The three key recommendations that can help to enhance the performance of civil society groups are building trust in the communities, understanding the needs of the locals, and working with a clear strategy. This research concludes that the civil society sector plays various roles in attempting to create peace in this region. Together with other actors, the civil society sector can be an important part of the effort to reduce the violence and can play a major role in building sustainable peace in southern Thailand when the violence eventually stops.
University of Waikato
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