Thailand’s PM Comments on Removal of Deep South Peace Negotiator

BenarNews Staff
160421-TH-nakrob-folo-620.jpg Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha (left) blesses an official during a Thai new year’s ceremony at Government House in Bangkok, April 12, 2016.

The former secretary of a government team negotiating with southern rebels to re-open formal peace talks was removed from his post because of a routine reassignment of duties, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday.

“It is a normal reshuffle. He was in the position for many years, and it will not impact peace talks because another person can also do [the job],” Prayuth said during a news conference at Government House.

The Thai junta chief was referring to Army Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong, who was the only member of the Thai team involved since 2013 in efforts to negotiate a peaceful solution to a long-running separatist insurgency in Thailand’s Deep South. A civilian-led government was in power when peace talks with southern rebels stalled in December 2013, but a military coup led by Prayuth toppled it in May 2014.

Prayuth’s comments came a day after Nakrob confirmed to BenarNews that he was no longer the secretary of the nine-member Thai negotiating team and was being reassigned.

“I’ve been verbally informed that I’ve been removed from the post,” Nakrob told BenarNews on Wednesday.

He said someone else from the team would assume his duties, which involved negotiating details of demands and terms between the Thai side and MARA Patani, an umbrella body representing Deep South rebel groups and factions in Malaysia-brokered discussions aimed at restarting formal peace talks.

Informal talks have been underway since last year and another round of these talks between the Thai team and MARA Patani was still expected to take place in Kuala Lumpur sometime next week, officials from both sides told BenarNews.

Violence linked to the conflict in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region has claimed more than 6,500 lives since the insurgency flared up again in 2004. A recent spurt in rebel attacks has killed at least 30 more people over the past two months.

One of the rebels’ main demands, which led to the previous round of talks stalling in 2013, is for Thailand’s central government to grant autonomy to the Deep South.

But at Thursday’s news conference, the prime minister bristled when he was asked about whether Thailand might agree to create a special autonomous zone in the southern border region.

“Don’t talk about governance …,” Prayuth told reporters, adding that the government could provide the region with all of its development needs.


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