Echoing comments by the chief Thai negotiator, a MARA Patani spokesman insisted Monday that Barisan Revolusi Nasional rebels were on its negotiating panel in informal peace talks, and these were on-going despite a disagreement last week over a limited ceasefire.
Three current members of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) sit on the panel, and reports about the disagreement over the so-called safety zone that cut short the latest discussions was intentionally blown out of proportion to discredit the peace process in Thailand’s Deep South, MARA Patani spokesman Abu Hafez Al-Hakim told BenarNews.
“Awang Jabat is the MARA Patani chairman … Sukree Haree is the chief of the dialogue team while Ahmad Chuwo is also on the dialogue team. All of them are BRN members,” he said.
MARA says it is an umbrella organization representing Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the most powerful of the insurgent groups in the Deep South, and other rebel organizations in informal talks with Thailand’s military government that have gone on since 2015.
“At this juncture, some minor details of certain issues related to safety zones, especially from the Thai side, have not been satisfactorily addressed. More discussion and clarification are still needed, hence the implementation is a little delayed,” Abu Hafez said.
“This situation is not abnormal in any peace process where dialogue partners differ in opinions. The correct approach is to continue dialogue, not walk away from it.”
Responding to BenarNews, Abu Hafez supported comments made on Saturday by the Thai government’s chief negotiator, Gen. Aksara Kerdpol, who had said that BRN members were part of the talks. Aksara also shot down a wire service report that “former” members of BRN served on the negotiating team.
“I won’t want to comment on the Reuters report because that person [BRN member] didn’t have the authority to speak on behalf of BRN, even though that person is a BRN member, and maybe he spoke in his personal capacity,” Abu Hafez said, adding that three of seven members of a technical belonged to the insurgent group.
The negotiators did not say when the talks would resume.
The talks that have been going on in Kuala Lumpur for more than two years and facilitated by Malaysia have not yet led to a ceasefire that would be confined at first to one district in the Deep South, although the two sides had agreed to a framework on this safety zone in February.
Six months later, negotiators have not agreed on which one out of five potential districts would be picked for implementing a safety zone aimed at helping end the conflict, which has left nearly 7,000 people dead since 2004 in the Malay-speaking and predominantly Muslim Deep South.