Southern Thailand peace talks – A preliminary round of peace talks between Thai authorities and southern insurgent groups to be held in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
Thai delegation is expected to meet the newly formed alliance of southern rebels and hoping to set up safety zones in the far South during the meeting. Gen Aksara Kerdpol said Thai negotiators will meet representatives of an insurgency group alliance called the Majlis Amanah Rakyat Pattani or Mara Pattani. The talks would be facilitated by Malaysian host Ahmad Zamzamin bin Hashim, former director of Malaysia’s national intelligence agency.
The alliance was formed in May this year and consists of six separatist groups allegedly involved in terrorist activities in the Southern region of Thailand. The coalition includes Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), Gerakan Mujahideen Islam Pattani (GMIP), Barisan Islam Pembebasan Pattani (BIPP), and three factions of Pattani Liberation Organization (Pulo).
“Their formation of this group is an attempt by them to shed themselves of their violent image and move towards peace as they realize the sincerity of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,” said Gen Aksara, head of the Thai negotiation team.
The latest peace process is intended to ensure certain areas will be violence-free and no special security forces would be necessary in these safe zones. The talks will also be focused on the proposals on judicial matters, such as parole for the suspects. The new Mara Patani group has expressed their intentions to hold a press conference on Thursday. Some experts believe that they may want the publicity to garner more support to exert more influence in talks with the government.
The meeting will be the third closed-door meeting since June aimed at reviving official peace talks between both the parties. Last year, the Thai junta expressed a willingness to explore the prospect of fresh peace talks. During a visit to Putrajaya in December 2014, Thai Prime Minister personally conveyed such a message to his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razzak.
Yala and Pattani, part of southern border region, has been in the theories of a separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 6,000 lives and injured 10,000 since 2004. IMAGE/AFP