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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid