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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs