Pattani Travel Guide
Early History of Pattani
According to many historical sources, the ancient Hindu-Malay empire of Langkasuka was centered in Pattani, today’s southern Thailand, which encompasses of modern Malaysia states Kelantan, Terengganu and northern Kedah, as well as modern Thai provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Satun.
While when exactly Pattani was Islamized is in debate, it was certainly one of the earliest Malay kingdoms to adopt the Middle Eastern religion around mid-13th Century. The kingdom adopted the name ‘Patani’ under the rule of Sultan Ismail Shah. According to local folklore, he was finding a spot for the kingdom’s new capital, and when he arrived to the place he liked best, he shouted ‘Pantai Ini!’ which means in Malay, ‘This Beach!’ According to most accounts, this capital is thought to be today’s modern Kru Se (Kampung Grisek).
It is widely believe that Pattani is one of the oldest kingdoms on the Malay peninsular. Pattani was known to the Western world, especially in 1516 when Portuguese explorer Godinho de Eredia landed on its port. The fall of Malacca five years before that increased Pattani’s popularity with Indian-Muslim traders; competing viciously with northern Sumatra kingdom of Aceh.
During the massive Burmese attack from the north against the ancient Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya, Pattani’s Sultan Muzaffar Shah took this advantage and launched an attack on Ayutthaya in 1563. He however mysteriously died during battle.
Pattani’s golden age was during the reign of its four successive queens from 1584, known as Raja Hijau (The Green Queen), Raja Biru (The Blue Queen), Raja Ungu (The Purple Queen) and Raja Kuning (The Yellow Queen), where the kingdom’s economic and military strength was greatly increased and managed to fight off at least four Siamese invasions with the help of the eastern Malay kingdom of Pahang and the southern Malay kingdom of Johore.
Thai Annexation of Pattani
During the reign of Pattani’s last Queens in the 17th Century, the kingdom fell into disarray and went into gradual decline. A Siamese leader, Phraya Taksin, drove off the Burmese invaders out of Siam in a war of independence. His successor, Rama I, established the Chakri Dynasty, which still rules Thailand till today. The reunited and stronger Siamese army was to face another Burmese raid and demanded troops from from a reluctant Pattani.
Prince Surasi, Rama I’s prince, invaded Pattani and its Sultan Muhammad was killed in battle and his capital razed to the ground. According to local sources, 4,000 Malay men was taken to Bangkok in chains and made into slaves digging Bangkok’s system of khlongs (canals) To further humiliate the Pattanese, the symbol of Pattani’s military strength ‘ the Seri Patani and Seri Negara cannons, was brought to Bangkok and it is today displayed in front of the Ministry of Defense.
On 1791 and 1808, there were several unsuccessful rebellions within Pattani against their Thai conquerors. Following which, Pattani was divided into 7 largely autonomous states ‘ Pattani, Nongchik, Saiburi (Teluban), Yala (Jalur), Yaring (Jambu), Ra-ngae (Legeh) and Reman. All these was ruled by the Raja Ligor. For several months, there was a period of independence when along with Kedah Malays, Pattanese drove the Thais out. This however was short-lived.
In 1902, Pattani was formally annexed by Siam, followed a 1909 Bangkok Treaty with the British recognizing it. All seven provinces were united into a monthon and incorporated into the kingdom. Later on the central government in Bangkok renamed certain localities with Thai-sounding names, as well as merging together some of the provinces. When the monthon was dissolved in 1933 three provinces remained – Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
Greater Pattani State
During World War II, Thailand was an ally with Japan and allowed its southern territory to invade British dependencies and colonies on the Malay peninsular. Tun Mahmud Mahyuddin, a Pattani leader, allied himself with the British in promises that after the war should they win, Pattani would be granted independence.
The major source of support came from the Malay people frustrated with the Rathaniyom policy during the reign of Phibul Songkhram where Malays were subjected to assimilation and forced to abandon large amounts of their indigenous culture.
The Malay leader collaborated with the British in launching guerrilla attacks against the Japanese. In 1945, a petition of Malay leaders lead by Tengku Abdul Jalal demanded from the British independence of the 4 southern provinces from Thailand. After the war, there was a period where the Greater Pattani State (Negeri Patani Raya) flag rose in Pattani. However soon enough, the British broke its war promises; reestablished Thai presence in Pattani and the hopes of an independent Pattani was shattered.
This immediately gave rise to many insurgency groups seeking independence. British reasoning behind this move however is to keep Thailand stable, because they are seen as a strategic counterweigh to the communist insurgency in China, Indochina and Malaya.
Islamic Republic of Pattani
During the World War II, along with the Greater Pattani Malay Movement lead by Tun Mahmud Mahyuddin, another guerrilla force under the leadership of Islamic scholar Haji Sulong Tokmina fought alongside against the Japanese. Their stated goal is to create a Islamic republic in Pattani, which frequently put it at odds with Tun Mahmud who wants to reestablish the Pattanese Sultanate (being a prince himself).
Today, the goals and ideas of Haji Sulong Tokmina is still carried on by minor terror groups interested in creating a Islamic republic closely imitating that of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. After the war though, hopes of any independent republic in Pattani was quickly dashed by the British and the Thais.
Pattani United Liberation Organization
PULO is the most notorious terror group in the south of Thailand. Its platform is shared between Islamic and nationalistic goals, calling Thai presence in Pattani as a breach of Islamic land by infidels.
Its goals however are more notorious and often placed Thailand’s southern neighbor in the middle of this conflict. Its stated aims are to secede from Thailand through military and political means and unite with Malaysia as a state named Pattani Darussalam (Pattani, State of Peace). Their zeal is further enflamed when petroleum is found off-shore of Pattani’s coast.
Their flag resembles closely to Malaysia’s, having four red and white stripes and a black rectangular on the upper left with a crescent and a star. In 2003 and 2004, the unrest started by an arms theft in a Thai military installation was quickly blamed by the media on PULO, though Thaksin’s administration blames bandits in what many say an effort to maintain warming relations with Malaysia.
PULO is widely seen to have connections with other regional terror groups, including Aceh’s Independence Movement of Aceh (GAM). In 2004, Thaksin’s administration admitted that weapons from southern Thailand made it across the straits to Aceh. Many speculated that PULO had supplied GAM with those weapons. In 2003 too, Thailand had demanded that several Thai clerics seen as PULO leaders be arrested by Malaysian police.