In Southern Thailand, just a few hours away from some of the country’s most popular tourist beaches, a separatist conflict has raged for almost a decade. More than 5000 people have been killed — mostly civilians — in almost daily attacks that pit the Malay Muslim insurgency against Buddhists who are seen to represent the Thai State.
In recent weeks, Thailand’s Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has initiated conversations with representatives of some of the separatists, in hopes of finally stabilizing the region. Analysts are not optimistic the talks will yield peace, but commend the government for finally acknowledging that this conflict needs a political — not military — solution.
Kira Kay and Jason Maloney of the non-profit production company The Bureau for International Reporting visited Southern Thailand to explore the dynamics behind this seemingly intractable conflict and related humanitarian crisis. This report, which was broadcast in February 2012, was the first in a series titled “Fault Lines of Faith” that the BIR is producing for PBS NewsHour, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation. The goal of the series is to provide an on-the-ground perspective from rarely-covered parts of the world that are suffering from communal upheaval; and to examine the root causes of these conflicts and their impact on the relationships between people of differing faiths.