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Minority and Disability Rights in Thailand’s Deep South

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Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces (SBPs) are comprised of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and four districts of Songkhla provinces. The region is home to Malay-speaking Muslims, with enclaves of Thai Buddhists and ethnic Chinese communities. It is also the site of a long-running Pattani independence movement that has been driven by armed insurgent forces, wracking the region in deadly violence that has killed over 7,000 civilians since 2004. At the heart of the conflict is a struggle for the right to self-determination for the Malay Muslim population, including the right to social and political participation, non-discrimination and the recognition of their identity, language and culture.

Whilst Thailand has made improvements in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in recent years, this group continues to face significant vulnerabilities and barriers to their full participation in society. The situation is especially acute for persons with disabilities in the SBPs, who continue to be neglected by policies that are meant to address their needs in the wider context of disability rights in Thailand while also being overlooked in efforts to reduce conflict and increase development in the region, deepening their marginalization from the wider society.

This report aims to highlight the forms of discrimination faced by minorities with disabilities in the SBPs of Thailand. This report is written from the standpoint that intersectional discrimination on the grounds of disability and minority or other statuses cannot be separated, and therefore needs to be highlighted and addressed by relevant organizational bodies at the local, national and international levels.

It is in this context that Minority Rights Group, in partnership with the Institute of Peace Studies, Prince of Songkhla University (IPS), the Center for Conflict and Cultural Diversity (CSCD) and the Southern Association of Disabilities collected data through a series of interviews and focus group discussions that took place in August and September 2020 and in July 2021 in Songkhla, Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala Provinces.

This report contains an easy read summary.

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