The Asia Foundation | The Contested Corners of Asia: A Visual Companion


Case Studies

These three case studies were selected because of their shared conflict characteristics, and different stages of peace negotiations or transition from war to peace. All three regions closely fit the study’s definition of subnational conflict, and have a long history of conflict that is generally confined to a conflict area in a peripheral region of the country. While there are differences in the drivers of conflict, the three country case studies demonstrate comparable dynamics between the government and a discontented minority population, which is frequently recognized as a central explanation for the conflict. In each case, the stated intentions of the armed resistance movement have been limited to self-governance or separation, and have never involved aspirations to take over control of the national government. All three countries also have middle income status, with relatively stable, functioning central governments.

However, the three country cases capture different stages on a continuum between active conflict and peace. In Aceh, the former armed resistance group signed a peace agreement with the Government of Indonesia, and subsequently integrated into provincial politics, taking control of the executive and legislative branches of the local government. In Thailand, by contrast, there are no active, open peace negotiations between the insurgents and the government, and there has never been a formal peace agreement. The Philippines case can be described as perpetual transition, with one peace agreement signed in 1996 and another in 2012, but with violence levels and uncertainty about the peace process remaining high.

In the larger research of these three subnational conflict areas, a mixed methodology was used to determine certain findings. One of these methods was a perception survey. The responses to a sample of these questions are presented here, in the hopes that they can provide some deeper insight into the thoughts and feelings of people living in subnational conflict conditions.

For the visualization, the Thailand sample consisted of 1,000 randomly-selected respondents in Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala. The Philippine sample consisted of 1,500 randomly-selected respondents in Basilan, Agusan del Sur, Lanao del Sur, and North Cotabato Provinces. The Aceh sample consisted of 1,586 respondents drawn from Aceh, Besar, Bireuen, North Aceh, Aceh Jaya, Southwest Aceh Barat, Southeast Aceh, and Central Aceh. The survey field work was conducted throughout 2012. In Thailand, the team selected localities at the sub-district (or tambon) level; in the Philippines, at the municipality level; and in Aceh, at the subdistrict (or kecamatan) level.

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Deep-seated resentment of long-term injustices and inequalities has for decades heightened a sense of Malay Muslim identity in the Deep South. Recent experience of the Thai State’s oppressive, security-led and inflexible response to the conflict has led many residents to sympathize with insurgents who share their language, religion and culture. Sufficient local support and mistrust of state security forces exists to give small groups of insurgents space to operate and to continue recruitment.