The largest and most active insurgent group in Thailand’s Deep South marked its 59th anniversary Wednesday with a videotaped message asking the international community to help solve the long-running conflict and pledging to carry on with its separatist fight.
On the same day that Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) posted its six-minute video online, Thai army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong traveled to Pattani province in the Deep South to advise troops to prepare contingency plans leading up to Thailand’s general election, scheduled for March 24.
The BRN video features a lone speaker, who identified himself as Abdul Karim Khalib in videos released by the group in 2013. He spoke in Malay and the video carried English and Thai subtitles.
Marking the organization’s anniversary, Abdul said, “In the midst of difficulties and wishes to unite a strong unity of people, BRN was established on 13 of March 1960 as an organization to continue a people demand and reclaim of ownership rights,” according to the English subtitles.
“The purpose of BRN is to unite all kind[s] of Patani people into one line,” he said. “BRN will make a united people and receive the freedom, all freedom according to the United Nations by our fair self-government.”
Abdul also asked for the world’s help in bringing an end to the conflict while asking those in the Deep South to be patient.
“The real Patani situation at the present is the negotiation issue. It’s not about process of negotiation because Thailand usually denies and reject[s] when there is a demand which belong to the international way,” Abdul said.
His comments appeared to reiterate the BRN’s earlier demands that it be allowed to negotiate directly with the Thai government in peace talks and that the international community be involved.
Hardcore leaders of the BRN have stayed away from current peace efforts that have been under way since 2015 between the Thai military government and MARA Patani, a panel that claims to represent various southern insurgent groups and factions, including the BRN.
“So, to the all Patani people, let us continue this struggle into the end,” Abdul said, ending his videotaped statement. “Be patient of suffering, be patient of difficulties. The Sustainable peace is [a]waiting us.”
Zachary Abuza, a Washington-based security analyst and BenarNews contributor, took note of the emergence of the latest video disseminated online by BRN’s “Information Department” to mark the 59th anniversary of the rebel group’s founding.
“It doesn’t sound like they’re on the ropes and ready to negotiate, no matter what blather comes out of the #Thai government,” Abuza said Wednesday in a Twitter post.
In Pattani, meanwhile, Apirat told troops to be vigilant as the election neared.
“We will step up safety measures to safeguard soft targets such as temples, mosques and public places which appear to be at risk of attacks, before and after the polls,” he said.
He vowed that troops will protect electoral officials at polling stations and voters as they travel to the polling stations and cast their ballots.
“We also will set up rapid deployment teams to cope with situations and arrange helicopters to carry ballots to safety in case of an emergency where the election commission requests our assistance,” he said.
Apirat’s visit to the troops came days after a military spokesman said security officials in the Deep South had been on full alert in reaction to graffiti reading “Patani 110,” in reference to the anniversary of the 1909 Anglo-Siamese Treaty began appearing in the region.
Siam, as Thailand was formerly known, signed a treaty with Britain, which included a transfer to the British government all rights of protection, administration and control over the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Perlis, and adjacent islands.
The Deep South and two nearby provinces were rocked by a series of small bombs that went off Saturday into Sunday as the region marked the treaty’s anniversary. Officials reported that no one was injured by the blasts, but blamed the explosions on insurgents, adding these were not related to the upcoming polls.
Thailand’s southern border region has been marred by insurgency related-violence that has been blamed for almost 7,000 deaths since 2004.