Monday, June 22, 2009

Special administrative area for the Muslim provinces

Last week the special administrative zone for the troubled southern Muslim provinces made another resurfacing. The last time it was suggested in beginning of 2008 it was quickly shelved again since it was only the interior minister thinking aloud without clearing with prime minister Samak beforehand.

Now prime minister Abhisit brought this proposal back into discussion, though that news article actually does not say what is meant by special administration. Only a self-rule is ruled out, something which is successfully done in Europe, for example in South Tyrol, the part of northern Italy with a German language majority. There are some parallels with the history of the Pattani area - the area came to Italy despite stronger ties with neighboring Austria, there also was a strong nationalistic trying to suppress the German heritage, followed by separatism terrorism, and since the regional autonomy in 1971 the area became quiet. But of course such a regional autonomy is halfway to a full secession, something no Thai politician could accept, remember the ongoing Preah Vihar issue on just a few square kilometer.

Sanitsuda Ekachai, Assistant Editor at the Bangkok Post, wrote in her opinion column The South: Consult the locals first that it is most important to consult the people in the troubled provinces first before creating yet another new scheme to solve the problems from far-away Bangkok. I'd think for most of the Muslim the important thing is to have their culture respected - things like the suppression of the native Jawi language is something which must be stopped for sure. But this is nothing which depends on the administrative structure, so maybe elected provincial governors are something which could be meant by the proposal.

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