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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs