After Thai-BRN Talks, Malaysia Says Deep South Solution Will Take Years

Muzliza Mustafa, Nisha David, and Mariyam Ahmad
2022.01.12
Kuala Lumpur and Pattani, Thailand
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After Thai-BRN Talks, Malaysia Says Deep South Solution Will Take Years Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh, the Thai peace talks panel chief (seated, right), Anas Abdulrahman (also known as Hipni Mareh), the BRN chief negotiator (seated, left), and Abdul Rahim Noor, the Malaysian facilitator for talks between the two (seated, center), pose with other delegates for a photograph at a hotel in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 12, 2022.
[Handout photo from Thai military]

After two days of in-person talks between Thai officials and southern separatist BRN rebels, the Malaysian facilitator for the peace dialogue said Wednesday that it would take at least two years to find a solution to end the conflict in Thailand’s Deep South.

Both sides discussed a three-point plan, which includes a reduction in violence as a basis for further negotiations to end the decades-old insurgency spearheaded by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front), a Thai official said.

“Both parties finally met face-to-face after not being able to do so for nearly two years,” Malaysian facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor, a former police inspector-general who represents his government and brokered the talks, told BenarNews in an exclusive interview.

“The discussion was done in a peaceful manner and conducted in three languages – Thai, English, and Malay. I spoke in English, which was translated to Thai for the Thai government, and Malay for BRN representative, as they are more comfortable speaking in Malay,” he said of the two-day round of talks that opened on Tuesday.

Rahim Noor declined to give full details about the talks held at a Kuala Lumpur area hotel.

“I cannot share that but I can tell you that both sides are keen to find a solution to the situation in the Deep South,” he said.

“Only a political solution can solve the situation in the Deep South, but finding the solutions that both can agree with will take time. At least another two years.”

On the Thai side, a military official close to the peace talks said Thailand’s delegation and the BRN representative s discussed “a three-point framework which will be used as a roadmap for further talks.”

“The proposed framework includes violence reduction, political participation, and discussion mechanism in the [Deep South] region,” said a statement from the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

After the meeting ended BenarNews tried to talk to Anas Abdulrahman (also known as Hipni Mareh), the head of the BRN delegation, but he declined to comment.

The latest round of talks ended Wednesday evening after eight hours of discussion, a Malaysian security official involved in the meeting told BenarNews on condition of anonymity, because he also was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The Deep South encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province. Since the insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others injured in violence across the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

The armed separatist movement against Buddhist-majority Thailand began in the 1960s. The movement’s primary demand has been independence for the region.

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Thai security personnel inspect an area from where a suspected separatist threw a bomb at a civilian defense volunteer base, in Narathiwat province, southern Thailand, April 23, 2021. [AFP]

‘Patani Darussalam’ proposal

Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh headed the 10-member Thai panel at the peace talks.

“The representative from Thai national security council, as well as from Thai Attorney General Office, are also here,” Rahim Noor, the Malaysian peace broker, told BenarNews during the interview conducted at the hotel during a break in Wednesday’s proceedings.

Including the facilitator, a total of 10 officials, including from the Malaysian police’s Special Branch, were also present at the talks.

Rahim Noor said the two Thai sides also discussed a proposal by BRN on the creation of an autonomous “Patani Darussalam.”

A report published last week by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said the BRN, in May 2021, had “proposed the establishment of an autonomous ‘Patani Darussalam.’” The proposal said that in this region, the Patani people would have the right to design their education and economic systems, and the community’s Malay language and identity would be officially recognized and preserved.

On Wednesday, Rahim Noor said that Bangkok would have to consult with many parties before it could agree to the rebels’ proposal.

“The Thai government is the only entity that can solve the situation in southern Thailand,” he said.

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