The International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) hosted a seminar on the long-running ethnonationalist insurgency in Thailand’s Deep South on 12 April 2023. Dr Panitan Wattanayagorn, Government’s Special Envoy on the South and Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Security Advisory Committee in Thailand, shared the findings of a five-year research project he led on the drivers of and solutions to violence and extremism in the conflict-ridden provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
Titled “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces: Origins, Problems and Prospects”, the project involved the analysis of multiple databases, workshops with local government officials and civil society organisations (CSOs), and interviews with 100 former members of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – the main rebel group in southern Thailand. Based on this research, Dr Panitan argued that radical ideas, lack of state legitimacy, and military repression are necessary but not sufficient variables in explaining violence in the far South. He proposed instead that the operational and ideological reorganisation of the BRN – such as a shift from rural-based guerrilla warfare to urban terrorism and the infiltration of educational institutions – is the key driver of the systematic reproduction of violent extremism in the South.
Dr Panitan also discussed CVE strategies to address the ongoing violence, including data-driven monitoring of radicalisation processes, promoting multiculturalism, building confidence in the justice system, improving the education system, and enhancing trilateral cooperation between the government, local CSOs and International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs).
The seminar concluded with a Q&A segment, moderated by ICPVTR Senior Fellow Raffaello Pantucci, which touched on the role of social media as a tool of radicalisation and mobilisation, the role of Malaysia as facilitator in the peace talks, and the potential for this historically ethnonationalist conflict to play into transnational jihadist ambitions.