Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Characteristics of Buddhist Communities in Violent Situations in the Lower South of Thailand: A Short Case Study

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Characteristics of Buddhist Communities in Violent Situations in the Lower South of Thailand: A Short Case Study

Article excerpt

Abstract

The objective of this study was to observe the characteristics of Buddhist communities in violent situations. We conducted in-depth interviews and a fieldwork survey, and analyzed the data using descriptive analysis. Buddhists represent less than 10 percent of the population in the lower south of Thailand, and killings, murders, car bombings, and violent situations still occur in Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat provinces. The goal of terrorists there is to reduce the number of Buddhists and drive Buddhists out of the region. From the study, we present four types of Buddhist communities that remain alive in violent situations: Buddhist communities surrounded by Muslim communities, Buddhist households in Muslim communities, large Buddhist communities, and urban Buddhist communities. We conclude that, in the near future, Buddhist communities may be lost in the lower south of Thailand, and peace is the major hope for people of all religions in the lower south of Thailand.

Keywords: Buddhist communities, characteristics, lower south of Thailand

1. Introduction

Since the 2004 violence in three provinces (Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat) in the lower south of Thailand, the trust between Buddhists and Muslims has declined. They have had little contact because the violent situation has made them afraid to have contact between the religions (Sakolnakorn, 2013). The Buddhists are a minority community in the lower south of Thailand, represented by approximately 380,000 Buddhists, or 20 percent of the 1.9 million people in the region (Deep South Watch, 2013). Murders, car bombings, shootings, and assassinations still happen every day in the lower south of Thailand, and many bombings occur in business areas (Sakolnakorn & Tepsing, 2013). Reports on violence in Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat and some districts in Songkhla province appear in both the local and international media every day. Violent incidents, which include bomb attacks on and daily killings of state officials and local villagers, have caused concern among people outside these trouble-plagued provinces who are now waiting for the unrest to come to an end. However, many people feel there has already been too much coverage of the violence and have become apathetic, while some others are enraged about the situation (Ratjaroenkhajorn, 2006).

Terrorism in the three southern border provinces is not decreasing. The events are becoming more violent, and the consequence is many deaths and injuries, as well as a great impact on the economy in the area. The government has contributed a large amount of its budget and armed forces toward making peace. The violent situation in the lower south of Thailand stems from many political, economic, social, and religious factors, such as underdevelopment and poverty, the influence of religious ideology, the desire for Pattani State, organized crime, human rights violations, and discrimination. These are structural, historical, and individual factors, but their specific, major causes are the actions of groups including separatists, illegal businessmen, politicians, and local elites, as well as malpractice by public officers and lack of acceptance of local identity (Nakata, 2010).

On March 31, 2014, 11 people were killed, and about 100 more were injured by seven large bombs in central Yala province. The bombers were almost certainly Muslims from shadowy groups, including the Pattani-Malay National Revolutionary Front Co-ordinate (known by its Malay initials, BRN-C). Though Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, ethnic Malays form a Muslim majority in the south (The Economist, 2014). This area is the business area of Chinese Buddhists, who are an influential economic group in Yala province. On February 28, 2013, in Yala province, a separatist militant was killed in a clash with soldiers from the 12th Special Task Force. As they were approaching the targeted house, three armed men ran out and opened fire at the soldiers, who fired back. …

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