The conflict in Thailand’s southern border provinces is one of the world’s least known. Since 2004, when a decades-long insurgency reignited, the violence between Malay separatists and the government has claimed thousands of lives. The region is under emergency rule, with a heavy military presence. Locals complain of systematic human rights violations, and insurgent attacks are a daily occurrence.

Early this year signs of hope for an end to the fighting appeared. The government and the leading insurgent group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), announced the beginning of a peace dialogue. Although progress has been stuttered – a Ramadan ceasefire didn’t hold – this is the most positive step toward peace in years. This shift in attitude is giving civil society courage to speak out against human rights abuses and demand an end to the fighting.