Peace City: A Model for Peace-Building in the Deep South (17/05/2012)
A model of “Peace City,” with a focus on the lifestyle and culture of local residents, has been proposed for peace-building in the three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat.

The proposal was discussed at a seminar, organized jointly by King Prajadhipok’s Institute, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center, and the Deep South Watch at the Rama Gardens Hotel in Bangkok on 14 May 2012.

It forms part of a report, prepared by a group of students attending the Advanced Certificate Course in Promotion of Peace Society from March to December 2010. The course was arranged by the Office for Peace and Governance, King Prajadhipok’s Institute. Participating in the course were 90 people from many professional groups, such as government officials, members of the private sector, civil society, and independent organizations, as well as politicians, academics, and media practitioners.

The report states that conflicts in the South have come from misunderstanding because of differences in culture and way of life between officials and local residents. The report also contains a study undertaken to find out the needs of local residents in the deep South, where 83 percent of the people are Muslim Thais. The study indicates that most local residents want to participate in the management of their own communities. They would like to see state services and administration truly reflect local culture and way of life, while the local economy should be strengthened on a sustainable basis, so that they become self-reliant and live happily.

The proposal calls for the adjustments of at least three types of state services to the local lifestyle in order to create a peaceful atmosphere in the multi-cultural community. They include services in hospitals, schools, and police stations, where both Thai and Malay should be the languages of communication. For instance, all hospitals and public health centers in the three southern border provinces should have halal kitchens for Muslim patients. Muslim prayer rooms should also be provided.

As for local schools, the school curriculum in state schools should integrate Islamic studies into general studies. The Malay language should be taught in state schools and schools administrators should understand local culture and traditions. Moreover, the peace study should be included in the curriculum, so that people of different faiths and origins will learn to live together in peace and harmony.

As justice is considered the key to peace-building in the South, police stations should be adjusted to bring about justice through various procedures, such as searching and investigation. In this regard, police stations must uphold such major principles as the rule of law, transparency, accountability, ethical conduct, respect for local culture, and public participation in working with law enforcement officers to ensure justice.

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