1. Brief background
Under the joint capacity building programme of terre des hommes Germany and terre des hommes Netherlands, a regional training on “Conflict Transformation and Peace Building” among project partners and staff in Southeast Asia was held in June 2004 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. In 2005, during the Regional Partners’ Meeting of project partners of tdh Germany in SEA held in Sihanoukville, the Regional Working Group on Peace Building (RWG-PB) was set up with one of the ideas that children can play an important role in building peace. In April 2007, RWG-PB members were able to meet in Bangkok to share what had been happening in their respective countries on violence and peace building. Two years later during the Regional Partners’ Meeting in 2009 in Mae Sot, Thailand, a regional convener of RWG-PB was elected and a conceptual framework on peace building was discussed and drafted. A full-fledged action plans, however, was only finalized in 2011 which focuses specifically in certain countries in SEA on the following:
In the Philippines, war against the Moro people threatens to escalate as a result of the recent collapse of the peace talks; an armed communist movement remains active in the countryside. In Myanmar, the regime’s grip on power has strengthened, human’s rights violation thereby prolonging the conflict between different ethnic groups. In Indonesia, a fragile peace agreement in Aceh holds tenuously, while people struggling for self-determination in West Papua continue to be repressed. In Cambodia, the past and recent influx of different ideologies, beliefs, religions and cultures are being interpreted differently among different groups such as Khmer-Buddhist, Khmer-Christian, or Khmer-Muslim. Due to rigidity of their own perception, incidents of conflict or violence are predictable. Moreover, the “Killing Fields” from 1975 to 1979, when the Khmer Rouge established what they called Democratic Kampuchea and attempted to transform all aspects of society totally. In this endeavor, acts of unspeakable barbarism were committed against the people, out of an estimated population of eight million of that time, some five million were displaced. Most scholars place the number of dead from murder, torture, disease and starvation at around two million. Unlike other experiences of genocide, where race or religion were key factors, the Khmer Rouge drew their lines in terms of social class: the killing and horror took place amongst Cambodians, a largely homogenous ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural grouping. The violence occurred as Pol Pot and his followers sought to abolish utterly the existing culture and replace it with a newly invented one, which combined Maoist principles with mythical ideals of the past Angkorean. In so doing, they destroyed all the institutions of state the education, financial and legal systems – as well as religious and other social institutions.
In Thailand, the war in the south shows no signs of abating. Conflict and violence between differences religious groups is recently visible. After the Tak Bai violence occurring on 25 October 2004, a soldier asked the children living in one of the southern border villages, “What do you want to be when you are grown up?” Buddhist kids said they wanted to be soldiers and policemen so that they could shoot bad men while Muslim children said they would become bad men so that they could shoot the soldiers and policemen. These answers prove how deep-rooted the southern border problems are and how gloomy the future will be if the problems are not solved. Working in the local areas, therefore needs both the workers’ understanding of the problems they are facing and their sensitivity (Chaiwat Satha-anan, Introduction to Phaen din chintanakarn [Land of Imagination], Matichon Publishing, 2008).
Pattani Kingdom was incorporated into the Thai state in early 20th century and divided into three provinces, which was under the direct controlled of the central government. Therefore, the southern border history involves local people’s struggles, adaptation, and negotiation against a backdrop of changes and the Thai state development policy; cultural conflicts; lack of participation in development processes; and bitterness about being deprived of social justice because of differences ethnicity. These issues were vital factors prompting certain village groups to resort to violence and resistance to government. So far the three southern border provinces have thus become the region of conflict until today. Because of the southern border violence, lack of participatory development, environmental and ecological crises, and cultural differences, it is urgently necessary that all parties concerned make these three southern border provinces their main priority. Though the southern border locals have ethnic difference and identity, as well as unique history, language, religious beliefs and culture, they have been considered as “otherness” all along. Despite of the ongoing violent and unsettled conflicts taking place there, Thai society has very limited knowledge— in comparison with other regions of the country—about the communities, social settings and culture of the Malay Muslims living in the region.
Importantly, child’s behavior is usually shaped though family and society environment. Due to the past armed conflict and war violence, therefore, the education among children at war time was so poor but those children is now become parents for today. Thus, the ability of analysis root cause of violence including the capacity for breaking violence cycle is usually deal with inappropriately.
2. Common action points
In spite of different situations in various countries in SEA, four common action points have been followed by members of RWG-PB for the next few years:
+ Celebration of the International Day of Peace (21 September)
+ Peace building mainstreaming into primary school curriculum and awareness raising
+ Taking part in the Campaign against Corporal punishment and for Positive Discipline
+ Taking part in the Campaign on Violence against women and children
+ Collection and circulation of Peace-building and transformative conflict-resolution manuals.
3. Members of RWG-PB
+ Dr. Eng Samnang, Cambodia Family Support (CFS): Regional Convener, firstname.lastname@example.org
+ The Social Agenda Working Group, Thailand
+ GEMMA Foundation & Children’s Media Centre, Aceh, Indonesia, email@example.com
+ Mr. Guiamel Alim, Philippines, firstname.lastname@example.org
+ Ms. Chounthavong Boulaphet, Laos, email@example.com
+ Mr. Ung Pola, Cambodian Organization for Children and Development (COCD), firstname.lastname@example.org
+ Mr. Ros Sam An, Santi Sena Organization (SSO), Cambodia, email@example.com