Thai Officials, Southern Rebels Meet in Malaysia

BenarNews Staff
Kuala Lumpur and Washington, D.C.
160427-TH-peace-talks-620.jpg Bomb squad members inspect the site of a vehicle attack in the southern province of Narathiwat, April 21, 2016.

A Thai delegation met Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur with negotiators representing Deep South insurgency groups in efforts to resume formal peace talks, a spokesman for the rebel side told BenarNews.

“The meeting ended without further development. I’ll only comment tomorrow,” Abu Hafiz Al-Hakim, spokesman for MARA Patani, a panel representing various rebel groups and factions from Thailand’s southern border region in peace negotiations, said in confirming Wednesday’s meeting.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment.

The Malaysia-brokered meeting was the first one since the two sides met in the Malaysian capital in November to discuss technical steps toward resuming formal peace talks for the first time since December 2013, when a civilian-led government ruled Thailand.

In August, a delegation representing Thailand’s military-controlled government met for the first time in Kuala Lumpur with MARA Patani, when the newly formed umbrella body unveiled itself to the public.

“No statements from me today. Thank you,” Malaysian facilitator Ahmad Zamzamin Hashim told BenarNews.

Col. Kasturi Mahkota, leader of the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), one of the rebel groups represented on MARA Patani, did not attend the meeting. He told BenarNews that he had not received any information about it.

The meeting came amid a surge in deadly violence in the Deep South in recent weeks.

On Monday, a shooting and two bomb attacks left three dead and at least 20 injured. Since Feb. 10, at least 35 people have been killed in attacks by suspected rebels after Thai security forces raided a suspected insurgent hideout in Pattani, one of the provinces in the Deep South.

The meeting also took place days after a top government negotiator was relieved of his duties.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said Army Lt. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong was removed from his post as part of a routine reassignment. Nakrob was the only member of the Thai government team involved since 2013 in efforts to negotiate peace in the Deep South.

Since the conflict re-ignited in 2004, more than 6,500 people have been killed in violence related to the separatist insurgency in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking region.


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