Thai Rebels to Meet in Malaysia With Head of World Islamic Body

Suhana Osman
2016.01.08
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160108-TH-OIC-620 Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, June 11, 2015.
AFP

Updated at 5:23 p.m. ET in 2016-01-08

An umbrella group representing southern Thai insurgents in efforts to resume peace talks with Thailand will meet in Kuala Lumpur this weekend with the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a member of the rebel delegation told BenarNews.

MARA Patani, as the umbrella body is known, met with OIC officials in the Malaysian capital on Friday to set up a meeting there over the weekend with OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani, according to MARA member Abu Hafiz Al-Hakim.

“We had a meeting with OIC officials here today, " Abu Hafiz said.

"Our initial meeting with OIC officials today was very positive. More than what we expected," he added without elaborating.

Madani was due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Friday for a three-day visit to Malaysia, during which he was to meet with Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to the state-run Bernama news agency.

On Sunday Madani was to travel on Thailand, where he would stay till Jan. 13, pay a courtesy call on Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and take part in a symposium on “inter-faith dialogue and peaceful coexistence in multicultural societies,” the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Abu Hafiz represents the Patani Islamic Liberation Front (BIPP) on MARA Patani, which has been negotiating since last year as a united front on behalf of various southern Thai rebel groups and factions in back-door talks with Thai officials.

The Malaysia-brokered talks have been aimed at resuming formal peace talks with Thailand for the first time since December 2013. Should those efforts succeed, a new round of formal talks would be the first held under Thailand’s military-controlled government, which toppled a civilian-led government in May 2014.

The different rebels and factions have been waging a separatist insurgency in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South region, which has claimed the lives of at least 6,000 people since 2004.

Malaysia is one of 57 member-states of the OIC, which is the second-largest inter-governmental organization next to the United Nations. Predominantly Buddhist Thailand is one of five observers to the OIC.

‘Internal’ matter

Meanwhile, The Nation newspaper of Thailand on Friday published an editorial in which it criticized Thailand for failing to live up to past agreements made with the organization that represents the Muslim world.

“It’s not clear what Iyad Ameen Madani and his 57-member organization have in mind on this occasion, but, if its representatives’ visits in 2007 and 2012 are any indication, Madani will arrive with significant proposals for resolving the conflict in the Malay Muslim-majority Deep South,” the editorial said.

Elsewhere, Gen. Aksara Kerdpol, Thailand’s chief negotiator in recent back-door talks with MARA Patani, chaired a meeting of religious leaders, academics and civil society groups in the Deep South on Friday, during which he updated them on the status of the talks.

“This peace process has continued and is on the level of trust building…,” Aksara told the meeting.

He also touched on the upcoming visit to Thailand by the OIC secretary general.

“OIC has supported us in the peace talk process and understood that it is an internal affair in which the OIC will not intrude.”

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