After several peace talks at the negotiating table since 2000, the negotiation process between Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka- GAM) finally ended by the Helsinki agreement in 2005. Unlike what happened in Thailand, the process of negotiations between the governments of Thailand and the United since 2004 up to the present time is sporadic.
Titik Firawati, S.IP., M.A, lecturer of the UGM Department of International Relations, said that the Aceh case shows that the process of negotiations between the Indonesian government and GAM tended to be sustainable; however it is different from the case between the Thailand government and the United. This is caused by the differences of the internal situation of the group in negotiations. "Both Indonesian government and GAM eventually faced a painful stalemate after the unilateral approach undertaken for nearly 30 years had failed to end the conflict. While the Thai government and the United did not have such situations. They remain attentive and assault each other,” she explained on Thursday (17/2) in the seminar Conflict and Peace in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand) in the Auditorium of UGM Faculty of Philosophy.
Titik explained that the internal friction in the government of Indonesia and GAM are still within the control of each party. It is not the case with the Thai government and the United. Both are facing pressure from inside, especially for United which experiences crisis of legitimacy because it does not get the full trust of all rebel groups operating in southern Thailand.
Titik added that inter-group interaction also influences the negotiation process of the parties involved. In the case of Aceh, the Indonesian government and GAM during the initial negotiations equally maintained initial demands not to grant independence to the GAM. However, this attitude did not last long after the GAM ignored the demands and opened way to meet the interests of both parties. "Apparently, the positive interaction between groups is not the case in the case of southern Thailand. The Thai government insists the initial position and doubts the negotiation process under way, although United no longer demands independence," she explained.
Considering such a condition, Titik said that there is the need to mind the parties where the warring parties face a deadlock. Thus, they would feel a loss to continue the unilateral approach that has been applied which was followed by flexible demands and the exchange of concessions would foster the peace process. Besides the parties involved in the conflict, the third parties could also help create the situation through persuasion or pressure. In addition, a solid internal situation without friction can speed up the peace process. "By considering these conditions, the peace process in the southern Thailand which was previously sporadic could become an ongoing process, oriented to the achievement of a final agreement that benefits each party. Such changes are expected to bring about peace in Thailand," said Titik.
In the meantime Prof. Dr. Ahmad Somboon Bualuang, of Prince Sonkhla University in Thailand said the conflict in Southern Thailand can be solved by joint security dialogue between the government with every Patani’s rebel groups, foster peace network in the entire state, and run a social communications strategy to increase understanding of the situation so that the region can live in peace. "Also with the promotion of the possibility of establishing Islamic sharia court under the Judicial Officers of Thailand," said Ahmad.
While Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Director of Henry Dunant Center, said that the settlement of the conflict in Southeast Asia can be achieved if each government provides policies and strategies of conflict resolution peacefully, congenial with the principles of democracy and in accordance with human rights. "So far, politic in many Southeast Asian countries is not congenial with the policies created. Actually, peace will be achieved if governments create policies and strategies of conflict resolution that is consistent with the principles of democracy and human rights," Vatikiotis said.