Thailand: Southerners Skeptical About Prospects of Peace Talks

By Nasueroh
150424-TH-road-620 Rescue workers in Yala province, southern Thailand, collect the body of one of two women shot dead on the Betong-Yala road, April 24, 2015.

Updated at 2:56 p.m. ET on 2015-05-17

Former insurgents in Thailand’s Deep South region and a young supporter of armed separatists are expressing skepticism about prospects of the military-led government holding peace talks with rebel groups next month in Malaysia.

“What do they want us to come out for?” an ex-member of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of the main separatists groups in the Deep South, told BenarNews.

“Most importantly, they need to talk to the [resistance] leaders in Thailand,” he said, adding, “The military just wants to talk to the less important leaders in Malaysia who are ranked number three or four in the real-world hierarchy.”

This week, Thai Army Chief Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr told reporters in Bangkok that the military was close to clinching a deal to open a Malaysia-brokered “dialogue” with southern separatists, and this could start sometime in May.

The talks likely will take place in May in neighboring Malaysia, Maj. Gen. Nakrob Boonthong, who is closely involved in efforts to bring about a new round of talks with southern rebel groups, told BenarNews on Wednesday.

The talks would be the first since 2013 and the first held under Thailand’s junta, which overthrew a civilian-led government last May.

‘They don’t trust the military’

The ex-BRN member and the other sources from the south all spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the Thai military was pursuing all means – both covert and overt – to try and persuade separatists to come to the negotiation table, but that “most of BRN’s members do not want to talk because they know what will happen after that.”

He was alluding to the last round of Malaysia-brokered talks that collapsed in December 2013, in which the rebel side was represented by BRN leader Hassan Bin Toyib.

“The Thai government is not sincere. The demands by Hassan Bin Toyib then were not honored,” the source said.

Another southerner, a youth who supports the insurgency, also expressed pessimism about the prospective talks.

“The youths wouldn’t want to talk because we don’t believe the military. It is risky to talk and the family might be disturbed. Staying in the shadows like this is enough good, and we have peace of mind,” he told BenarNews.

A third source, an ex-BRN member in Malaysia, where many BRN supporters live in exile, said that on April 9 he had seen Gen. Aksara Kerdpol – the government’s appointed lead negotiator – come to Malaysia.

According to the source, Aksara went there to take part in a closed-door meeting with low-level representatives of BRN and two other Deep South separatist groups: the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) and Barisan Islam Pembebasan Patani (BIPP).

“They [the Thai military] want to talk to key leaders of various groups but none of them dare come out because they don’t trust the military,” the ex-BRN member in Malaysia told BenarNews.

Two die, eight hurt in fresh violence

Since 2004, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the insurgency gripping various Muslim-dominated provinces and districts that make up the Deep South.

On Friday, more deadly violence there was reported.

Two women were shot dead on a local highway and at least eight others were wounded in a series of suspected rebel attacks across the region.

Unidentified assailants shot the women – members of the Akha tribe of Chiang Mai province, in northern Thailand – in Tan To district, Yala province, as they rode a motorcycle on the Betong-Yala road, police said.

The victims were identified as Buser Mayer, 48, and Busue Mayer, 17, said Col. Chatchai Chanasit, chief of the Bunnang Star police station.

In Narathiwat province, a father and his three children, aged between four and 10, were injured when a roadside bomb exploded as they rode a motorbike near the entrance to Sadej beach, in Tak Bai district, police said.

The four victims of that attack were taken to Prince of Narathiwat Hospital, but their conditions were unknown.

In Mayor district, Pattani province, an armored military vehicle was struck by a claymore landmine on Route 4092. Four soldiers and security volunteers were slightly injured by the blast, police said.

Infamous days

The attacks came days ahead of April 28, which will mark anniversaries of two important dates in Deep South history.

On April 28, 1948, the Thai government quelled a Patani Malay uprising at Narathiwat’s Dusun Nyor tambon. And on April 28, 2004, the military killed insurgents at Pattani’s Krue Seh mosque.

“Every year the insurgents have tried to instigate violence during these days, and again this year, officials must be well cautious,” an official, who asked not to be named, told BenarNews.

Separately, Col. Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Region 4 field office of the Internal Security Operation Force (ISOC), condemned Friday’s attacks.

“The incident displayed reckless attempts to hurt the innocent citizens, especially the impact on the children. This is extreme, inhumane and deserves far-and-wide condemnation,” Col. Pramote told reporters.

“I don’t want anyone to have an impression that the insurgents carry out attacks to mark milestones of uprising[s]. They do that every single moment they can,” he said.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date for when peace talks last took place.


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