A Ministry for the South: New Governance Proposals for Thailand's Southern Region
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 30, Number 3, December 2008
- pp. 403-428
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The ongoing conflict in Thailand's Muslim-majority southern border provinces has claimed more than three thousand lives since 2004. To date, successive governments have sought to control the violence mainly through the use of enhanced security measures, and by arresting and prosecuting insurgent suspects. Yet despite some limited successes in reducing the number of violent incidents, the underlying causes of the conflict have not been addressed. The Thai state suffers from a legitimacy deficit in the region, and many Malay-Muslims would like greater control over their own affairs. The insurgency is ultimately fuelled by political frustrations. Yet all suggestions that the region might be granted some form of special administrative status have been consistently rejected by the authorities. This article examines proposals in a recent report by a team of Thai academics based in the region, who have advocated the creation of a new ministry to oversee the administration of the Deep South. These controversial proposals offer a compromise political solution, one which recognizes the distinctive nature of the region while preserving the core principle of a unitary Thai state.