News / Asia

Cautious Optimism Ahead of Thai-Insurgency Talks

Secretary-General of Thailand's National Security Council, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, center left, shakes hands with chief of Thailand's National Revolution Front (BRN) liaison office in Malaysia, Hassan Taib, center right, Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 28, 2013.
Secretary-General of Thailand's National Security Council, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, center left, shakes hands with chief of Thailand's National Revolution Front (BRN) liaison office in Malaysia, Hassan Taib, center right, Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 28, 2013.
Ron Corben
Thailand has announced it will undertake peace talks with a Malaysia-based group that is linked with a Muslim-led insurgency in southern Thailand, which has killed more than 4,000 people since it erupted almost a decade ago.
The peace initiative, while welcomed, has raised concerns about whether the steps will be sufficient to end bloodshed and halt insurgent calls for greater autonomy in the largely Muslim southern provinces.
The talks, scheduled to begin on March 28, were agreed to in Kuala Lumpur by Thai National Security Council Secretary General Paradon Pattanathabutr and Hassan Taib, a senior Malaysian representative of the National Revolutionary Front, known by its Thai-language acronym BRN.
BRN is one of several groups seeking to establish an autonomous state in southern Thailand.
Other groups include the Mujahedeen Pattani Movement, the long-standing Pattani United Liberation Organization, Pattani Islamic Mujahedeen Movement, the Mujahedeen Islamic Pattani Group, the National Revolution Front, Pattani Liberation National Front, Jemaah Islamiyah and Runda Kumpulan Kecil.
Secretary-General Paradon told a Thai parliament house committee other insurgent groups will be invited to the talks.
Angkhana Neelapaijit, president of the non-governmental organization Working Group on Justice for Peace in the South, says the Thai government needs to build greater trust in local communities for the talks to succeed.
“I think it is too fast for any negotiation, because I think we have a lot of [insurgent] groups of people who think different," she said. "We need to be very careful and need to talk with all the stakeholders."
Thai officials and human rights analysts say the talks in Malaysia followed lobbying by former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption, but who remains a key decision maker behind the government.
Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk says Thaksin has used his close ties with Malaysia’s government to press for talks.
"Thaksin’s close friendship with ... with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and [other] personal friendships ... have been mobilized to get the Malaysian special branch police to pressure insurgent elders from the BRN Coordinate to come to the negotiation table," he said.
Sunai says the condition calling for insurgents to surrender the armed struggle for creation of an independent Pattani was added at the insistence of both Malaysia and Thaksin.
In Yala Province’s key city of Betong, hotel general manager Bunchong Wong says the local economy, especially tourism, would benefit from an agreement that leads to a reduction in violence.
“In the first step it is good, but the commander, the authority officer, should negotiate with the other groups, because there are four or five or six groups," said Bunchong. "If the people have got safety and security, it’s okay; surely my business will be better than last year.”
Analysts say the success of the talks still lie in addressing key grievances in the Southern border provinces, including an end to discrimination against Muslim communities.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs