- Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Historiography of Patani ed. by Patrick Jory
Patrick Jory (editor)
Singapore: NUS Press, 2013. 368 pp. ISBN: 978-9971-69-635-1
Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand is an edited volume containing a selection of papers presented at a conference co-organized by Chulalongkorn and Walailak universities which was held in Bangkok in December 2009. The main contents, apart from the editor’s introduction, consist of thirteen articles from leading Southeast Asian scholars and regional experts on Patani and Islamic history. The articles have been divided into four parts. Three articles in the first part explore Patani’s identity prior to the rise of nation-states and nationalism. The second part draws attention to Patani Islamic scholars, the ulama, and their role in forging a link between Southeast Asian Muslims and the Middle East. Two articles in the third part examine the political and economic transition of Patani in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The remaining four articles deal with contesting historiographies of Patani.
That the book purports to draw attention to the current state of historical research and historiographical debate on Patani is hardly surprising, considering the continued violence of southern Thailand’s conflict to this day. Nevertheless, Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand is unique among the works of its kind in that it not only highlights the importance of the historical dimension to the conflict, but also challenges a conventional way of studying Patani’s history within the context of Thai studies. In this respect, this edited volume offers a variety of perspectives— Patani’s, Malay and Islamic among them—to the epistemology of Patani’s past.
In terms of ongoing debate on the historical roots of the present conflict, the most significant contributions in this book, in my opinion, are the chapters of Francis R. Bradley and Philip King which are grouped together in the third part, [End Page 103] named ‘Alternative histories of Patani’s decline and fall’. Bradley focuses on the wars between Siam and Patani during 1786–1838. He argues that the Siamese wars against Patani should be viewed as a deliberate and systematic attempt to destroy recalcitrant territory by means of killing and deportation, and these wars, in effect, not only devastated Patani and its people, but also ended the centuries-old system of mandala relations between Patani and Siam. Because the event of 1786 and subsequent wars stand out as historical discourse in both Patani and Thai nationalist historiographies, it is refreshing to be shown by Bradley’s work that they can still be documented and debated beyond the usual discursive argument.
Though convincing, Bradley’s work is also controversial and we only have to look at Philip King’s article for a cautionary pause. According to King, ‘the image of Siam as a colonial aggressor that broke-up the once great Sultanate of Patani is simplistic’ (p. 166). He uses Raman, a tin-rich interior region of Patani, as a vantage point for his analysis of the Anglo–Siamese rivalry in the interior zone of the Malay Peninsula in the late nineteenth century, but his findings help point out the fact that the sultanate had been in a long period of economic decline since its heyday of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The two works thus argue, respectively, for political and economic perspectives on the marginalization of Patani. Bradley’s situating of Patani’s great downfall in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries is also at variance with Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian who, in the discussion of historical writing during the 1940s to 1980s, locates the root cause of conflict in the period between 1897 and 1907. Such differences of opinions between the authors could have been highlighted and perhaps debated more thoroughly by the contributors in the editing process, or benefited from an attempt at some concluding discussion.
Although meriting attention of their own, the chapters on Patani’s scholars in the second part of the book are less successful in contributing an Islamic...