Thailand Calls on Rebels to Pause Hostilities Following King’s Death

BenarNews staff
Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
2016-10-28
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161028-TH-suspects-1000.jpg An image from a security surveillance camera shows two men, identified by police as suspects, riding close to a car that was targeted in a fatal drive-by shooting in Mayo district, in Thailand’s Pattani province, Oct. 28, 2016.
Courtesy of Mayo district police

Killings have persisted in the troubled Thai Deep South even after government negotiators told a rebel delegation during talks this week to refrain from violence for a year while Thailand mourns its king.

Two civilians were shot dead in the region since the Thai side called Wednesday for a 12-month pause in bloodshed following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Oct. 13, who is officially being mourned over the next year.

The two sides met from Tuesday through Thursday in Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, according to a spokesman for the MARA Patani panel representing southern insurgent groups. Both negotiating teams gave different accounts of progress in hammering out so-called safety zones – or a limited ceasefire – that would be a milestone in the peace process.

The 88-year-old Bhumibol (Rama IX), who ruled Thailand for 70 years, was “patron of all religions evenly and wished all people to love each other,” Gen. Aksara Kerdpol, the head of the Thai delegation, said Friday as he confirmed that talks had taken place in the Malaysian capital this week.

“[I] told them to not make a move and hope this year to not have more violence. The dissident groups also mourned the king and felt grateful to him,” he told reporters in Bangkok, referring to the rebel groups from Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking southern border area.

He said the negotiators also discussed safety zones.

“We have done talking on the safe zones and, from now on, we will define certain areas, be it at the level of village, Tambon [village cluster] or district. The aim is to stop violence through the peace-talk process,” Aksara added.

On the rebel side, MARA Patani spokesman Abu Hafiz al-Hakim told BenarNews that the latest round of Malaysia-facilitated talks and the first to take place since the king died ended on Thursday.

“We have not agreed on anything, it will be continued,” Hafiz said Friday. “We don't know when is the next date for a meeting. Thailand is still in a grieving period. We have to wait [until] they are available.”

Since last year Thailand’s military government has been trying to revive formal peace talks aimed at resolving the long-running separatist conflict in the country’s southern border region, and which were last held under a civilian-led government in 2013. But despite a series exploratory talks with MARA Patani, the region has remained violent.

On Friday, a female school teacher was killed and a woman who was with her was injured in a drive-by shooting in Pattani, one of the provinces in the Deep South. The incident, in which the victims were shot in their car by suspects on a motorbike, was caught on camera. A video clip of the incident reportedly went viral after being posted on social media.

A day earlier, a contractor working on an irrigation project was shot dead in neighboring Narathiwat province.

Police said they suspected that insurgents carried out Friday’s attack, but they said that Thursday’s shooting may have not been linked to the insurgency.

More than 6,700 people have been killed since January 2004 in violence related to the conflict, Deep South Watch, a think-tank based in Pattani, said Thursday in releasing updated statistics.

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