News / Asia

Thailand in Key Peace Talks with Muslim Insurgent Representatives

Secretary-General of Thailand's National Security Council Paradorn Pattanathabutr (L) speaks to Chairman of the Advisory Council for Peace Building in the Southern Border Provinces Aziz Benhawan, at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Mar. 28, 2013.
Secretary-General of Thailand's National Security Council Paradorn Pattanathabutr (L) speaks to Chairman of the Advisory Council for Peace Building in the Southern Border Provinces Aziz Benhawan, at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Mar. 28, 2013.
Ron Corben
Thailand opened informal peace talks Thursday with separatist representatives. The meeting marks a major breakthrough after nine years of sectarian violence in the largely Muslim southern provinces.  Analysts and Muslim leaders hope that, despite ongoing attacks, the talks may lead to a decline in bloodshed.

The talks in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur followed months of background diplomacy between the Thai and Malaysian governments, in a bid to end years of bloodshed in Southern Thailand.

The Thai delegation of 15 representatives, which included human rights groups, held informal talks with up to nine Muslim separatist groups led by the National Revolutionary Front, known by its Thai acronym-BRN, as well as another key group, known as PULO.  

Thai delegation leader, National Security Council Secretary General Paradon Pattanathabutr, says the initial aim is to reduce levels of violence in the provinces.

Paradon says the BRN - seen as the main group - may help reduce the violence using its influence to talk with other armed groups. But, he adds it will take time to reduce the numbers of incidents.

The peace talks are the first between the Thai state and several insurgent groups since violence re-emerged in 2004 and has since claimed more than 4,000 lives.

Although Thailand is largely Buddhist, the provinces of Yala, Pattan, and Narathiwat, are majority Muslim populations.  Thailand annexed the region from Malaysia in 1902.

After authorities announced the talks, earlier this month, other separatist fighters have stepped up attacks.  On Thursday, a roadside bomb in Narathiwat province killed three Thai army rangers and seriously wounded five others. It remains unclear how much influence the militant groups participating in the talks have with those who are not.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn says the talks are a first step in a longer process towards formal negotiations.

“This first step will take some time. In particular, the Thai public is hoping that the representative from the groups like the BRN, PULO will show their good intentions in particular in terms of not pushing for the separatist state or not pushing for the armed struggle. In return the Thai officers can somewhat guarantee the commitment of the process,” Wattanayagorn stated.

Panitan says the next round of talks is expected to take place in Thailand. He says there is a broad political commitment among Thai authorities to move the talks forward in the months ahead.

The talks followed lobbying by former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Thaksin, who remains overseas to avoid a jail term for corruption, is a key decision maker behind the government of his sister Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The rebel representatives are believed to be requesting concessions including a withdrawal of Thai army troops, amnesty for the fighters and for the provinces to be granted autonomy.

Prakorn Preeyakorn, president of the Islamic Center of Thailand, says the demand for greater autonomy is a key issue.

“The movement by the opposite side to the state just want to have their identity and have liberties in having their language [taught]  in schools apart from the need to have specific local autonomy," said Preeyakorn. "I see this is the movement of decentralization. But they don’t really want to separate from the Thai state.”

Thailand’s security forces and army have ruled out moves to grant greater autonomy or self-rule. The army, with 60,000 troops in the region, has past opposed reductions in troop numbers, in a bid to ease local tensions.

Officials say further talks are planned after the National Security Council officials and representatives from both BRN and PULO agree to the terms.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
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 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 Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
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.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
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