Patani (region) - Resistance Movements in Patani

Resistance Movements in Patani

During World War II, along with the Greater Patani Malay Movement, led by Tengku Mahmud Mahyuddin, another resistance force under the leadership of Islamic scholar Haji Sulong Tokmina also fought against the Japanese. Their stated goal was to create an Islamic republic in Patani, which frequently put it at odds with Prince Tengku Mahmud who wanted to reestablish the Pattanese Sultanate.

Haji Sulong had emerged at a time when the region of Pattani was in need of new political direction. His appearance supposedly gave new light to the nationalistic intents of the Malays in the region based on Islamic principles. Haji Sulong was born in 1895 to a family in Kampong Anak Rhu. He had completed his Islamic studies locally before being sent by his father to further education in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. There in Mecca, he apparently met up with and studied with famous Islamic scholars and teachers. He even opened a school in Mecca and had students from all over the world study under him. Eventually he married and settled in Mecca. During this period, there was a wave of nationalism sweeping the world in the earlier part of the 20th century and Sulong himself was exposed to Arab nationalism. Sulong's return to Pattani happened almost by chance due to the death of his first infant son in order to alleviate the grief of his family.

Upon his return, he had apparently looked upon the plight of the Pattani region being a distant shadow of its former glory as the 'cradle of Islam' in Southeast Asia. According to Thanet, the Thai historian, this notion set him into action. From teaching in a khru (small Muslim village school), he eventually opened up a pondok to spread his teachings due to his popularity amongst villagers. Even Pridi Phanomyong visited Haji Sulong at his school and it soon became the most popular Islamic school in Thailand. According to Thanet, the rise of Islamic nationalism in the South is not only attributed to Haji Sulong himself but also the religious students who 'were inclined towards modernism' from the northern states in Malaya. Haji Sulong was an ulama who openly distrusted the government's involvement in the religious affairs of the community. His conviction in the matter stemmed from his ideal that a community cannot be established in the south as long as it is solely under Thai rule.

On 3 April 1947, a commission of inquiry by the Bangkok government was sent to the four Muslim states in the South to check on the apparent plight of the Muslims living there. It was during this time that the Provincial Islamic Council of Pattani drafted out a seven point demand to the central government in Bangkok which sought for the betterment of Muslims in the region. According to Thanet, the commission of inquiry pointed to Haji Sulong as the leader behind the conceptualisation of this demands. Prime Minister Thamrong brought the seven point demand for consideration with his cabinet and then decided that they could not be met because he felt that the existing structure of the Bangkok government was still (then) adequate to govern the Pattani region. He concluded that an exclusive reorganisation of the governmental structure in the area to suit the people there would then 'divide the country'.

By the late part of 1947, Haji Sulong and his supporters realised that their efforts with the government to negotiate better terms for the Muslims in the south was not working. They then decided to adopt a policy of non-cooperation and this included the boycott of the January 1948 elections. Moreover, at this time, the Pridi government had been ousted in a coup by the military which meant a return to the old rigid ways towards the southern states. During this period, Haji Sulong and his associates were arrested and charged for treason. This was a move purported by Phibun even though he was not back yet in power according to Thanet's research (Phibun returned to power a few months after in April 1948). This arrests were soon followed by clashes between Muslim villagers and the police/military forces at Duson Nyior. This event was known was the Dusun Nyior Incident which was led by a religious leader by the name of Haji Abdul Rahman. The ensuing violence involved over 1000 men in open battle and led to the deaths of an estimated 400 Malay muslim peasants and 30 policemen. After the clashes had been settled, there was an exodus of Malays across the border to Malaya. There was even a petition by the Pattani Muslims to the United Nations to step in to broker the separation of the four southern states to join the Federation of Malaya.

While on trial, the court provided many descriptions of the alleged activities that Haji Sulong had carried out to incite unrest amongst the people. This include accusations that state that he held meetings which invoked 'arousing rebellious feelings among the people almost to the point of creating unrest in the kingdom'. According to Thanet, the most serious accusation was that he incited the people to seek for self government with the intention of inviting Tengku Mahmud Mayuddin, who was the son of the last raja of Pattani, to preside as leader over the four southern provinces. On top of this, the prosecution also stated that Haji Sulong had recommended that Islamic law be implemented and if the government did not comply to the said demands, Haji Sulong would then urge the Malay population to make their complains heard until the government did something about it. Haji Sulong was convicted and spent time in jail until 1952 and after his release, he was ordered by the government to give up his public activities and subject himself to checks by the police on demand. The prosecutor in that trial wanted to press for a heavier sentence citing evidence that Haji Sulong was planning something bigger to the scale of a rebellion. Originally as a result of the state's prosecution citing these evidences, the sentence had originally been longer but due to the willingness of Haji Sulong to cooperate in the investigations, the court reduced the sentence to four years and eight months. In 1954, Haji Sulong, his eldest son, Ahmad and some of his associates were told to report to a police station at Songkhla. Upon leaving to report to the station, they were never seen or heard from again. After his disappearance, his family inquired about his whereabouts but never got any answers. In 1957, his son, Ameen Tokmina ran for parliament in the elections in the hope that a position in the government could help him look for more information.

Today, the goals and ideas of Haji Sulong Tokmina are still carried on by minor resistance groups interested in creating an Islamic republic. After the war, though, British and Thai policies essentially removed the possibility of an independent republic in Pattani.The British originally had the intention to deliver on their promise to the anti-Japanese Malay leaders in South Thailand that they would either create an independent territory out of the four Malay-based southern Thai states or incorporate them in British Malaya as a punishment of Thailand for aiding the Japanese conquest of Malaya and profitting from it. However, they were dissuaded by the USA who needed Thai rice to feed the war-ravaged region and Thai friendship to face up to the possibility of China's fall to the Chinese communist army.

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