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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid