Peace in action: Promoting peace through youth photography in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces
The power of belief and faith is the one that creates Patani identity.’
Day by day, the conflict happened, and the pillars shook apart.
Over eighteen years, there have been many stories and news.
Patience, Sacrifice for the Holy Land
The situation continues, and only Power is brought as a reminder.
– Pusdee Wanwang
Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces are the traditional territory of the Patani people. As an ethno-religious minority in Thailand, Patani Muslims are marginalized in political, economic and social life. Resistance to the Thai state has endured since the territory was annexed to Siam (now Thailand) in 1902, resulting in a violent separatist movement. The reignition of this movement in 2004, which turned sporadic violence into full scale conflict, was met with a militarized approach from the central government defined by continuing human rights abuses. At the heart of this conflict is one of exclusion: exclusion of minorities from their inherent rights in the state of Thailand, but also, exclusion of local society from the ongoing peace process between the Royal Thai Government and the insurgent Barisan Revolusi Nasional or ‘National Revolutionary Front’ (BRN).
It is in this context that Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is working with local civil society organizations to make the ongoing peace process more inclusive and responsive to the demands of the people most affected by the conflict. We organized a three-day photography training to inspire young people to use the power of the camera as a form of non-violent resistance, documenting daily lives and ongoing challenges, to inspire a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Working in collaboration with Realframe, a group of Thai professional photojournalists and documentarists experienced in capturing stories about social and environmental issues, the training equipped youth with technical knowledge of photojournalism and the power of the photograph.
At the beginning of the training, MRG and Realframe reflected on 19 years of the conflict and the various initiatives at the national, local, and individual levels that have aimed to restore peace. While the Peace Dialogue between the Royal Thai Government and the BRN has been moving slowly, community-led peacebuilding initiatives have been robust. To ensure that any peacebuilding process is inclusive, it is important that youth have the tools and space to voice their thoughts, concerns, and expectations, because the results of the process will define their futures.
After the training, participants were given a camera and tasked with creating a photodocumentary series on conflict and its resolution in the Southern Border Provinces or Deep South. The photos were judged by a panel and winners received cash awards to encourage them to continue their photography journey.
Read on to hear from three of the winning photographers and see their photos.
Da’wah – An invitation to the (Islamic) straight path
By Muhammadfaton Mateh
‘“Da’wah” means calling, seeking, or inviting. It is an invocation or invitation to the way of religion, someone who invites people to understand and accept Islam.
While I was photographing a mosque in Yala for this activity, a man approached me and greeted me with a friendly and smiling face. He told a story about the propagation of religion through Da’wah that has existed from the past to the present; about how Da’wah means conducting oneself in a way not contrary to religion that does not create problems for society.
After talking for a long time, and the time came when we had to part ways, he ended our conversation with a sentence that I heard when I was a kid. “Come pray at the mosque tonight, there will also be a religious lecture tonight,” which is a phrase meant to persuade more teenagers to religious minister in the mosque. Then he added: “If there were humans on the moon, we will send a group of Da’wah there.”’
Islamic Way of Football
By Nur-inee Sideh
We can study and play at the same time, both of which support each other.
‘I had the opportunity to meet a football team in Bannang Sata District, Yala Province, a small community with a school in the middle of a valley surrounded by nature, which has a teaching programme for football combined with Islamic studies.
This Islamic way of football, unlike normal football, requires the student-players to gain discipline by incorporating religious principles into their training. The students must learn the Quran, and since this school is a boarding school, attend religious teachings in the evenings. They must always pray five times a day, even if there is a competition near these important times. They need to wear tight pants instead of typical football shorts, as they need to dress according to traditional Islamic principles, covering up the navel to the knee.
In this series of photographs, I wanted to convey how the Islamic way of football is permeated with smiles, happiness, kindness, and peaceful coexistence; although the players on the field have different beliefs, religions, cultures, and traditions, when the competition is over, the players can hug and talk to each other in a friendly way. I want to be a voice for others to see how peace in this area is created by local people.’
Turn Time: Women in the Deep South (of Thailand)
By Pusdee Wanwang
‘This series of photographs reflects the ‘Turn Time’ history of the conflict in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces, presented in the form of a conceptual portrait or a symbolic form through fictitious characters and places to commemorate what has happened. I was inspired by my own volunteering in the area, providing relief for women who have been affected by the conflict.
Over the years, efforts have been made to establish a peace dialogue process, but no space has been provided for women to contribute. The loss of a beloved family member, especially a husband or father, has resulted in many women and many families struggling, they have to protect their families and demand justice from the relevant agencies and those involved in such losses.
I want the viewers to see the importance of having space to talk about historical events and for women to participate in the peace process.’
Minority Rights Group is currently accepting applications for our next youth peace photography training in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces. Apply by 23 July 2023! Please see more information here.
Photo: Men read the Qur’an at a mosque in Yala, Thailand. Credit: Muhammadfaton Mateh
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