Rebellion in Southern Thailand: Contending Histories


Thanet Aphornsuvan

Policy Studies, No. 35


Washington, D.C.: East-West Center; Singapore: ISEAS Publishing

Available From: and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 978-981-230-474-2
Binding: paper
Pages: xi, 90


In Asia, print and electronic versions of this publication may be purchased from ISEAS Publishing; outside Asia, hardcopies of this publication may be purchased from

This study addresses the competing histories of Thailand and Patani beginning in the fourteenth century up to the mid-twentieth century. It provides an explanation of the causes of ongoing political conflict between the Malay Muslims in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand and the Thai government, against which "separatist" movements fought in the 1960s.

Even though January 2004 marked the beginning of the current violence that now plagues Thailand's south, most people in and outside the area still believe that the nature of such conflict is internal and could be resolved peacefully. The major contention in the competing histories of Siam and Patani revolves around national policies that resulted in discrimination and destruction of the Muslim's cultural identity and rights. In the early twentieth century under the rule of King Chulalongkorn, which was characterized by centralization and cultural suppression, Patani was reduced to a mere province. Further forced assimilation occurred under the Phibun government in the 1940s at which time Islamic practices and the use of the Yawi language were curbed.

The source of political conflict–including the political status of Patani, ethnic identity, Bangkok politics, and bureaucratic misconduct in the south–have historical roots. Understanding an appreciation of each other's culture and ethno-religious identities could lead to positive political will on both sides for peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Thanet Aphornsuvan is Associate Professor in the History Department and Director of Southeast Asian Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand.