In the wake of the Philippines government announcing last weekend that Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had agreed upon a peace plan after fifteen years of negotiations and forty years of war, many Thai news outlets are wondering whether Manila could teach Bangkok a lesson in how to deal with the southern Thailand insurgency.
The Nation today, in an editorial titled “A Lesson for Thailand from the Philippines,” offers that the Philippine agreement has many key points for Thai policymakers to learn from, a mantra echoed by several other Thai media outlets. Yet there are key differences between southern Thailand and southern Philippines that, at this point, will make it hard to apply many of Manila’s lessons to Thailand:
After 15 years of negotiation, on Sunday the Philippines government finally reached agreement with the Muslim rebels in the country’s southern region to end a 40-year conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people. This is good news for the Philippines and for Asean.
Of course there is still more work to be done, but credit must be given to those who were involved in a peace process that has travelled a long and troubled road before reaching this crucial stage.
At the outset, few believed they would eventually reach a framework within which both sides could work to establish enduring peace and stability. After years of talk and negotiations that sought to close the gap between seemingly entrenched positions, there emerged a political will to find common ground. That was the foundation for success.
Sunday’s agreed-upon peace framework builds on key decision points made this past April. The agreement forged a roadmap to create a new autonomous region in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic country before the end of President Beningno Aquino’s term in 2016, giving the Muslim-dominated area greater political powers and more control over resources.
But by announcing the framework deal now, the two sides have made their intentions clear. Both sides want to convey to the world that they have reached a landmark in the peace talks. Certainly, in the months to come, they have much work to do on pivotal issues such as sharing power and wealth, as well as the borders of the proposed new autonomous political territory to be called Bangsamoro. This new area will replace the current autonomous region known as Muslim Mindanao.