International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Transitional Justice in Thailand

Resurgence of an indigeneous, ethno-nationalist conflict continues to plagues Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani – Southern border provinces of Thailand – for the last decade. This conflict, dating back to early 1900’s, resumed in 2004 when when both sides of the conflict – the Thai government and the Barisan Revolusi National (BRN) – committed bomb attacks, assassinations, revenge killings, and other acts of violence which have claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 people and wounded over 9,500 people. This violence is the product of an unresolved Malay-Muslim grievance with the Thai state. The article lists several central grievances: national political leaders’ failure to acknowledge and respect the unique cultural identity of the local community; systematic discrimination; political marginalization; and a record of human rights abuses by government authorities, for which few of those responsible have been held accountable. This top down discriminatory approach is also responsible for constraints on access to justice reflected in limited legal representation, obstacles in the criminal justice chain, lengthy pre-trial and arbitrary detention under the emergency powers laws, and lack of accountability on both sides of the conflict with respect to violence and abuse of power. Amidst this violence, the Thai Government and BRN announced their agreement to engage in peaceful dialogue; however, this article questions the possibility of transitional justice bringing peace to Thailand. Apparently, Thailand lacks the three historically necessary conditions for transitional justice to succeed: a strong political will to resolve the conflict; policies that limit new grievance; and a negotiable agreement. While other states in Southeast Asia (including Philippines (Bangsamoro), Indonesia (Aceh), Nepal, and Timor-Leste) have benefited from transitional justice, perhaps Thailand – given the nature of the ongoing conflict – is not yet ready for reconciliation.


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