Reintegration : Voice from the Conflict-affected Deep South. Research report from listening to stakeholders’ voices in appreciation of reintegration work in the three southernmost provinces. With support from Korea Trust Fund and the World Bank.
The conflict in Thailand’s three southern border provinces is ongoing, characterized by the cyclical resurgence of violence with the latest round from 2004 until now. For almost two decades, losses and impacts had been inflicted upon all parties. Traumas, visible and non-visible, have affected citizens living in the area amid protracted political conflict and power struggles between the conflicting parties. At the same time, peace-building efforts seem to be gaining traction. Within this ecosystem of peace-building, research plays an instrumental role in shining light on evidence and perceptions, leading to an understanding that can transform the conflict.
This research, entitled “Reintegration: Voices from the Conflict-affected Deep South”, was made possible with the support of the Korea Trust Fund for Economics and Peace-Building Transitions and the World Bank. It aims at listening to and understanding the stories and contexts surrounding the decision to return to civilian life by former combatants and ex-detainees who have been convicted of national security offences. A key component of this research is a review of international experience and lessons learnt from reintegration programs and processes. International experience tells us that in virtually all conflicts, reintegration to normal civilian life is a common aspiration shared by individuals, regardless of shades and partisanship and the violent traumas they
have experienced. We also learn that reintegration to normal civilian life does not just happen automatically the moment fighting stops. On the contrary, it requires sensitivity and holistic management of many dimensions, in particular related to perceptions of fairness. Many countries have experenced flare-ups of violence when the social dimensions of reintegration were left unattended.
In the case of Thailand’s southern border provinces, no peace agreement has been achieved yet. Nonetheless, in the protracted timespan of the conflict,a number of former combatants have returned home, alongside many detainees who have served their terms. The research has sought to study and extract lessons from the reintegration experience of returnees who were reintegrated at different points in time, as well as key stakeholders playing a material role in the process, along with prospective returnees. The researchers hope that the study will advocate for critical reintegration-related issues to be considered and deliberated, while contributing to peace-building for the Deep South.
The research team is thankful to key informants for their trust in us and in sharing with us valuable inputs. We thank Pamornrat Tangsaguanwong and Patrick Barron of the World Bank, for lending both substantive advice and moral support throughout the process; and Iskandar Thamrongsap, Chairman of the Hilal Ahmar Foundation, for his advice and facilitation of data collection on the ground; along with countless other individuals we cannot name. We truly hope this research contributes to a better understanding of the Deep South problem and to peace-building.