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Thailand Agrees to Hold Talks with Muslim Insurgent Group

Thailand for the first time has agreed to peace talks with a major Muslim rebel group, marking a potential breakthrough in efforts to end nearly 10 years of violence in the country's south.

Senior Thai officials and representatives of the National Revolution Front on Thursday signed an agreement to start a dialogue process. It was not immediately clear when talks would start.

The deal was signed in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, where Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is due to meet later Thursday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Malaysia-based National Revolution Front is just one of several armed insurgent groups fighting for greater autonomy in Thailand's mainly Muslim south. It is yet to be seen whether the other groups would agree to the talks.

The area has been wracked by a Muslim insurgency that escalated in 2004 and has taken the lives of more than 4,600 people -- mostly civilians from both ethnic Thai Buddhist and Malay Muslim communities.

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