Thailand’s PM, OIC Chief Discuss Deep South Peace Process in Meeting

Pimuk Rakkanam
160112-TH-oic-620 Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha responds to questions during a press conference at Government House in Bangkok, Jan. 12, 2016.

The Thai junta chief on Tuesday briefed the visiting head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) about government efforts to bring peace to Thailand’s Deep South, but warned that rebel groups should be sincere about pursuing talks to settle the conflict.

“Listen to us some. If they are sincere and help solve the problem with progress, they will get all of their demands,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told a news conference in Bangkok before meeting OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani.

Prayuth was referring to MARA Patani, an umbrella body that has been representing southern insurgency groups and factions in recent back-door efforts aimed at reopening formal peace talks with Thailand, which stalled in December 2013 when a civilian-led government was in power.

“We haven’t accepted any proposals. Everything is sensitive,” said Prayuth, who rarely has spoken in public about the junta’s efforts to get the rebels from the predominantly Muslim Deep South to the negotiations table, as he responded to a question from a BenarNews reporter.

After the prime minister’s meeting with Madani, a spokesman for the junta issued a statement saying Prayuth told the OIC secretary-general that Thailand had adopted a two-pronged approach toward the Deep South, through promoting sustainable development in the region and pursuing peace talks with the separatist rebel groups.

According to Maj. Gen. Weerachon Sukhontapatipak, the government’s deputy spokesman, Prayuth also explained to the OIC head how the government was approaching the peace efforts through three steps.

As Weerachon summarized, the steps consist of building trust with MARA Patani; agreeing with the rebels on a code of conduct designed to lower tensions in the south and reduce the number of armed confrontations; agreeing with them on solutions for a regional peace and adopting a mutual roadmap for implementing a settlement of the long-running conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives since 2004.

On their side, the rebels have set three demands in pursuing the prospective peace talks, including that the government recognize and accept MARA as a dialog partner, that the government list the southern peace efforts as an issue on its national agenda, and that it guarantees immunity from prosecution for the members of MARA Patani.

“The secretary-general of OIC expressed appreciation to the Thai government for its attempts and sincerity in solving the Deep South problem,” Weerachon’s statement said, noting that the OIC chief advised Thailand to adopt a political and negotiated solution the insurgency.

The OIC later issued a news release confirming that the leaders of Thailand and the world Muslim body had met in Bangkok, but it did not specifically mention their discussion about the Deep South.

“During the meeting, the Prime Minister and Secretary General discussed regional developments, issues of mutual concern and ways of enhancing relations,” the OIC said.

Thailand is an observer at the OIC, whose membership is made up of 57 Muslim member-states, including neighboring Malaysia.

Madani arrived in Bangkok on Sunday evening after visiting in Kuala Lumpur, where he met earlier in the day with MARA Patani officials.

They had asked to meet with the OIC head to brief him about MARA’s peace efforts and request that the OIC work closely with Thailand and Malaysia – which has been facilitating a series of pre-peace talk meetings between the Thai government and rebels since last year – in support of the peace process.


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