Southern Thailand and particularly the province of Pattani is the home of the ethnic Malays in Thailand. In the 18th century after the Thais captured the Malay-dominated provinces in the south, the Thai consciously avoided referring to the people as Malays and instead preferring the term Thai Muslim. For the purpose of integration, Malay identity was discouraged by the Thai state. Due to such policy, young Malay fluency in Malay is decreasing. This had led to prejudice against Muslims in general instead of specifically against the Malays.
At present, there are Malay separatists in southern Thailand demanding that the Malay-Muslim dominated provinces are granted independence. This has led to killing done by Muslim terrorist. Indiscriminate arrest of Malays has fueled distrust and resentment against the Thai authority among the locals.
Thaksin had declared a militant law in southern Thailand. Former Prime Minister Thaksin has been blamed for action that lead to an incident at Tak Bai that led to the death of a number of Malays.
Nevertheless regardless of the cause, the May 13 Incident became the worst racial riot in Malaysian history. According to police figures, 196 people died and 149 were wounded. 753 cases of arson were logged and 211 vehicles were destroyed or severely damaged. An estimated 6,000 Kuala Lumpur residents — 90% of them Chinese — were made homeless. Various other casualty figures have been given, with one thesis from a UC Berkeley academic, as well as Time, putting the total dead at ten times the government figure.
Since then, the Malaysian government aims to stabilise the economy by introducing the New Economic Policy (NEP) citing income disparity as the main reason for the riots.
In the 1970s, Mandarin was promoted over other Chinese dialects. SAP Schools were created to provide Mandarin among the Chinese. This resulted in some Malays feeling that they were alienated. The reference to Confucian society by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew marked a shift in policy of neutral multiculturalism to Chinese-dominated society. Chinese schools began receiving government aids while other schools were neglected.
The former Prime Minister had once sparked a debate on the loyalty of the Malays to Singapore. He stated that the Malays might have conflict when it comes to loyalty. Earlier, former Indonesian President Habibie's alleged that the Singaporean armed force discriminate against the Malays. The Singaporean government has been cautious in issue of Malay loyalty. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a supporter of this policy. For the same reason, the Malays have been nearly absent from armed force scholarship list.