Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Historiography of Patani

By Chonlaworn, Piyada | Southeast Asian Studies, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Historiography of Patani


Chonlaworn, Piyada, Southeast Asian Studies


Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand: Essays on the History and Historiography of Patani PATRICK JORY, ed. Singapore: NUS press, 2013, xxix+336 p.

"While the southern insurgency continues, the history of Patani will continue to be a battleground" (intro. xix).

Since the outbreak of the insurgency in southern Thailand in 2004, numerous studies about Patani have been published by Thai and international scholars. However, those dealing with the history of Patani from a Malay and Islamic viewpoint are rare. This volume, a product of the international seminar organized by Walailak University, Chulalongkorn University, and other institutes in 2009, is one of them. It can be said that this volume is a sequel to the previous book co-edited by Michael Montesano and Patrick Jory, Thai South and Malay North (2008), but it is unique in the way that it highlights the history and historiography of Patani from different perspectives, especially from Malay and Islamic studies. In effect, it offers a new framework that challenges conventional ways of studying Patani within the context of Thai studies.

The book consists of four parts. The first explores Patani as a plural community and its identity in the early-modern era. Anthony Reid begins chapter one by pointing out the fact that Patani in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was a multi-racial community and not just a Malay society, as stressed by Patani nationalists. Reid's argument on Patani's pluralism has been stressed previously in Thai South and Malay North. In this essay, however, Reid draws on contemporary Dutch sources to illuminate the people and society of Patani. Another highlight of this essay is a full English translation of an account of Patani by Jacob van Neck, a Dutch merchant who visited Patani in 1602, an account that sheds a light on the social history of the polity. Barbara Watson Andaya's chapter discusses Patani identity through the symbology of Hikayat Patani, the most well-known indigenous source originally written in Jawi. The most potent symbols include the elephant gate, elephants, Patani canons, and the nobat orchestra. Geoff Wade provides a summary of various Chinese accounts referring to Patani, dating from the sixth to the nineteenth centuries. His translation and summary of these accounts emphasizes how Chinese sources are important in unraveling the early-modern history of Patani.

Three articles in the second part draw attention to Patani's Islamic scholars, or ulama, and their connections with the Middle East. Azyumardi Azra examines the life and work of Shaykh Dawud b. Abd Allah al-Fatani, one of the most famous Patani scholars who produced numerous scholarly works on Islam in the nineteenth century. Numan Hayimasae also describes the role of Patani ulama from the eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries in shaping the networks that linked Muslims in Patani to Mecca. Christopher M. Joll, on the other hand, argues that some of the prominent ulama, especially in the early period, were not pure "Malay," but "creole ambassadors," using terminology drawn from the work of Michael Laffan. He points out that they came from well-to-do elite families and had pluralistic ethnic backgrounds that enabled them to play significant roles as religious ambassadors between Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The third part explores Patani in the periods of political transitional in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Francis R. Bradley focuses on the wars between Siam and Patani during 1786-1838 that not only devastated Patani and its people, but also ended the traditional Mandala relation between Thai and Patani. Bradley points out a number of tactics Siam employed to subdue Patani and argues that these wars were no small-scale raids but were systematically carried out, a fact that counters the prevailing paradigms concerning early-modern Southeast Asian warfare. Philip King uses Raman, a tin-rich interior region of Patani sharing a border with Perak, as a vantage point for the analysis of Anglo-Siamese activity/rivalry in the interior zone of the Malay Peninsula in the late nineteenth century. …

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