News / Asia

Thailand Looks to Restart Southern Peace Talks, Despite Little Progress

FILE - A soldier stands guard on the Thai side of the river as people prepare to cross into Malaysia in Sungai Kolok in southern Narathiwat province, March 8, 2013.
FILE - A soldier stands guard on the Thai side of the river as people prepare to cross into Malaysia in Sungai Kolok in southern Narathiwat province, March 8, 2013.
Ron Corben
Thai authorities say they are prepared to resume talks with Muslim insurgent groups. The negotiations, which are expected to take place in Malaysia next month, have so far shown few signs of progress. Nonetheless, analysts say the prospect of a new round of talks marks a new stage in the insurgency.
 
This week, Thailand’s National Security Council called for a fresh round of talks to follow up on negotiations that started in February aimed at laying the groundwork for dialogue.
 
The talks are aimed at resolving an almost decade-long insurgency in Thailand’s Muslim-majority southern provinces close to the border with Malaysia. The conflict has killed more than 5,500 people and wounded scores of others.
 
Sunai Pasuk, an analyst with the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that even as peace talks have gone on, the violence has continued.
 
"It's going back to the point that daily violence is going on regardless… [There are] daily attacks, and after insurgent attacks the government will carry out a raid on an insurgent stronghold, and that will afterward lead to retaliation by the insurgents. So it becomes a 'ping pong' of violence, a very deadly ping pong game," explained Pasuk.
 
The idea for the talks grew out of contacts between former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Malaysian leader Najib Razak last year. Thaksin is the older brother of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and remains an influential figure in the current government, despite living in exile to avoid corruption charges.
 
International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Matthew Wheeler claims that while some observers have doubts regarding the dialogue process, it represents a new phase in a conflict he terms the "most effective insurgency in Thai history."
 
“Things have clearly changed and the obvious factor is the talks. There's a lot of skepticism about the talks and some of it is justified. Some of it is misguided - some of the criticism is political in nature based on the fact that Thaksin was instrumental in getting cooperation from [Malaysian] Prime Minister Najib in getting the process started. Thai officials are determined to keep the process alive,” said Wheeler.
 
The near daily attacks in Thailand’s south rarely garner international headlines. On Tuesday, three senior members of a Thai police ordnance team were killed when a hidden bomb detonated while they were examining another explosive device.
 
ICG analysts say there was a monthly average of 24 roadside attacks in the first half of 2013. Wheeler says the insurgency has changed tactics since the government launched the dialogue this year.
 
"There's a shift to military targets -- and especially staging ambushes on patrols using IEDS to target vehicles and then follow up with small arms fire. This could be an effort on their part to enhance their legitimacy now that they're at the table and there's more international scrutiny," said Wheeler.
 
BRN, the group representing the insurgent factions, has demanded the withdrawal of troops, the release of insurgent prisoners, and the participation of outside groups in the peace process, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The OIC has criticized Thai authorities for making slow progress in resolving the conflict.
 
Panitan Wattanaygorn, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University and formerly a spokesman for the previous government, feels the talks are more about "buying time" than setting out concrete proposals, such as greater regional autonomy.
 
"It’s time to talk about real proposals of the new governance in the South. There are several proposals already on how to decentralize the power from the center. And there is no real winning strategy on the ground for the military. The military really need to look deep into their strategy and come up with a much better one," said Wattanaygorn.
 
Analysts say "a special administrative arrangement" may be the best opportunity to bring about a resolution, but the Thai military remains fearful over any loss of sovereignty.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid