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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More