We have to understand that the history of the southern Thailand is a clear cut case of Thai imperialism and colonisation. The southern Thai people are in fact Malays by race and Muslims by religion. They speak the Malay language.
The southern Thai Malays were the original settlers there with their own culture, their own religion, their own language and their own kingdom. The original name for the Narathiwat province was Menara. Songkhla originally was Singgora, Yala, Nibong and Satun, Setoi.
Their history can be traced back to the old and ancient Malay Kingdom of Langkasuka in the second century. They evolved over the years to become the Pattani Sultanate of the 19th century.
But by virtue of British-Siam Treaty of 1902, this southern region was divided between Thai and the British coloniser. And since then, the Thai government has imposed political, economic, social and cultural colonisation upon them.
A total cultural colonisation was imposed on them to the extent that they have had to change their own Malay-Muslim names to Thai ones. The Pattani Malays were not allowed to practice their own culture freely.
Their language, Malay, was suppressed and they were forced to adopt Thai culture and language which is totally alien to them. It is a complete and systematic Thai cultural domination perpetrated by a Thai colonisation agenda to permanently erase their Malay-Muslim origins.
This cultural colonisation was made worst with the southern provinces being economically alienated and left behind. The rate of unemployment among the people in the southern Thai region is the highest in that country as are the poverty rates.
Throughout the 1960s up to the 1980s, there was a massive transmigration of Thai-Buddhists from the north of Thailand to the south to 'balance up' the racial and religious demography of the southern provinces in favour of the ethnic Thais who are Buddhists.
There are many reasons that can be sought out for the southern Thailand conflict - economic inequality, high rate of unemployment, economic discrimination and alienation, separatist movement, drug problems, police and military corruption and abuse of power, cultural discrimination etc.
But the most important fact that most seem to forget is that the southern Thai provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Patani, Songkhla and Satun were established through Thailand's colonisation. And that is the fundamental reason for the southern Thai conflict.
This colonisation is the real issue, the rest are just the effects arising from the real issue. Even after more than hundred years of total political, economic and cultural colonisation by the Thai government, the people of southern Thailand are adamant on reclaiming their history, politics, economy, culture and dignity.
What is happening in southern Thailand now is a natural response from any people who have been politically, economically and culturally stripped - that is to resist and fight back.
Given the historical background of southern Thailand, there is no other way to end this bloody conflict except by allowing the southern Thai people to determine their own destiny. And this calls for nothing less than a referendum.