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Political leverage can only be accomplished when people come together, and an example could be observed in a successful active mobilization among the local Muslim civil society in the South of Thailand resulting in enhanced bargaining power in negotiations with the state. With no end to the conflict in sight, Buddhist communities in turn feel the need to organize and prepare themselves for collective action. In 2017, the Buddhists mobilized to form the “Federation of Thai Buddhists in Southernmost Provinces,” an umbrella organization consisting of various local Buddhist groups. This article aims to examine the conditions and dynamics that made possible the organization of Buddhist activists in the southernmost provinces as well as the groups’ effort to include Buddhist voices in the peace process. We surveyed news from various types of media as well as conducting discussions and interviews with leaders and members of Buddhist groups, state officials (both civilian and military), Muslim leaders and activists. While bearing in mind the principles of nonviolence proposed by Gene Sharp and Adam Curle, this article seeks to understand the situation of Buddhist mobilization and Buddhist efforts to negotiate with state authorities. The article finds that the impetus for the formation of a collective Buddhist group comes from three sources; 1) intimidation and violence directed against Buddhists by the armed groups, 2) a sense of uncertainty stemming from the government’s handling of the conflict, and
3) perceived expansion of Muslim practices leading Buddhists to feel that there is no place for them. The Buddhist community’s response has taken the form of protest in public space and organization of groups and networks to assert their concerns to both the state authority and insurgents. Buddhist mobilization faces challenges: a) how to strengthen cohesion of the group,
b) how to create environment for peaceful coexistence between Buddhists and Muslims on the basis of cultural difference, given that the prolonged conflict has become a source of social division.
The authors retain the copyright to their article but the Journal of Liberal Arts, Prince of Songkla University reserves the exclusive rights to first publication.
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