Islamic Nationalism: The Armed Resistance of Patani Malays in Southern Thailand

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 07 September 2017


PSC Reading Room 4.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat


Helen McMartin

This research investigates the transformations of political ideologies of contemporary liberation movements in southern Thailand. The year 2004 marked a dramatic surge of violent resistance in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and some parts of Songkhla provinces but the armed struggle to liberate Patani, the area known today as Thailand’s southernmost region, goes back to the 1960s. Major scholarly works on the post-2004 phenomenon tend to either overlook or misplace the role of religion. While some scholars view religion as having a secondary role in what is perceived to be primarily an ethno-nationalist struggle, the terrorism experts, by contrast, raise an alarmist tone and point out Islam’s possible links to transnational jihadist groups. Both analyses fail to provide a thorough understanding of the role of Islam in the current liberation movements in southern Thailand.

From 2016 to 2017, I spent a year-long fieldwork in southern Thailand and a neighbouring country to probe the political thought of the Patani liberation movements, particularly the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front – BRN). My central finding is that the fall of socialism and the global rise of Islamic revival has provided a significant backdrop for the change of political ideologies among most of the Patani liberation movements, which increasingly turned towards Islam. While the use of the religious framework to comprehend and legitimise their struggle is not a totally new phenomenon, Islam has become more prominent in the mindset of the contemporary generation of fighters and the political interpretation of their faith has become more radical.

About the Speaker
Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political and Social Change. She has worked as an analyst for International Crisis Group focusing on the southern insurgency and national politics in Thailand. Prior to that, she worked as a journalist with The Nation and Associated Press. Rungrawee has a BA in Journalism from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, an MA in Southeast Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore and an MA in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies from King’s College, London. She has published widely on the southern conflict in Thailand in both Thai and English.

Updated:  23 March 2016/Responsible Officer:  Su-Ann Tan/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team