Thai Representatives, BRN Rebels Meet Online

Mariyam Ahmad and Noah Lee
Pattani,Thailand and Kuala Lumpur
Thai Representatives, BRN Rebels Meet Online Officials inspect the site of a roadside bombing that targeted a police truck and left five officers injured in Sri Sakhon, a district of southern Thailand’s insurgency-stricken Narathiwat province, Jan. 31, 2021.
Matahari Ismail/BenarNews

Thailand held online talks Wednesday with representatives of the main insurgent group in the Deep South, an encounter facilitated by Malaysia that appeared to be the first high-level discussion in nearly a year in efforts to bring peace to the border region.

Abdul Rahim Noor, the Malaysian broker of talks between the Thai government and the rebels known as Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Liberation Front, or BRN), confirmed that the online meeting took place and he had facilitated it.

“Yes, it is true. The Thai side could not come to Kuala Lumpur because of COVID-19,” he told BenarNews when contacted for information about the meeting.

“The BRN team for peace talks came to KL, but the Thai team was in Bangkok. [The meeting] was conducted via online without any problem,” Rahim Noor said via text messages.

In Bangkok, Thai government officials issued a statement announcing technical-level talks – meaning that the full delegations that take part in formal peace talks were not on hand.

“Thailand’s technical-level peace talk team had a teleconference with the representatives of the BRN with Tan Sri Abdul Rahim bin Mohammad Noor being a facilitator,” said the Secretariat Office for the Peace-Talk Dialogue Panel, which is under the National Security Council.

“The essences of the meeting were [about] designing an approach on how to handle peace talks during the COVID-19 time and on the topics for the next talks, such as violence reduction and promotion of participation in solving Deep South issues.”

In early 2020, Rahim Noor brokered two meetings in the Malaysian capital between Thailand and the BRN – the largest and most powerful of armed groups waging a decades-old separatist insurgency in the predominantly Muslim and Malay region near the frontier with Malaysia. 

They were the first direct meetings between Thailand and the BRN in years, but were postponed indefinitely after a second meeting in Kuala Lumpur in March, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This meeting was in line with both sides’ intent to maintain the continuation of the talks for peace in Deep South. The meeting went smoothly,” the Thai secretariat said of Wednesday’s meeting. “Both sides agreed to keep virtual meetings consistently in order to forge cooperation, which will lead to sustainable solutions to the problems.”

Wednesday’s meeting came three days after a remote-controlled roadside bomb exploded in Si Sakhon, a district of far-southern Narathiwat province, injuring five officers who were riding in a police truck, officials said. The officers were traveling to the scene of a reported arson attack targeting a cellphone communications tower in the area, when the explosion happened.

The bombing was the first attack blamed on southern insurgents since Dec. 7, when a police investigator was shot dead in Pattani province.

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 in violence across the region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

Nani Yusof contributed to this report from Washington.


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Malay people
Feb 10, 2021 04:29 AM

Include 4 provinces and 5 districts in the southern Thailand.