Thailand: Southern Insurgents Cool Toward Peace-Talk Prospects, Report Says

By BenarNews Staff
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150713-TH-TALKS-620 Thai firefighters spray water on burning buildings in Su-ngai Kolok district, Narathiwat province, after a bombing by suspected separatist militants, July 11, 2015.

Thailand’s junta is trying to meet again with southern rebel groups next month to pave the way for official peace talks, but a majority of insurgents are uninterested, according to a leaked military document.

“Most operatives in the field don’t agree with the peace talks because they don’t believe this attempt is sustainable, and talking with military will only cause them to have disadvantages,” says a progress report obtained by BenarNews from a Thai military official who requested anonymity.

The 11-page report, which details back-channel efforts to persuade various insurgent groups and factions from the country’s Deep South to return to the negotiating table, notes that the two top leaders of the main rebel group’s military wing are staying away from the peace process.

“At present, the most problematic group is BRN [Barisan Revolusi Nasional],” the report says. “Some of the seniors/older generation agreed with the talks but they are fading out and their roles are not significant anymore.

“The other side of its military, which has been controlled by Sapae-ing Basoh and Doonloh Waemahoh – including the youth – do not agree with the talks,” the report adds.

Young combatants “believe they have the upper hand over the government in the fight, and the fight is not yet over. Also, their goal is independence, which conflicts with the peace talks.”

A report published last week by International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO engaged in conflict prevention and resolution, said that both the Thai military and rebel sides lacked unity on the issue of peace talks, and it was also difficult to persuade hardcore elements of the BRN to agree to participate in them.

A BRN demand that Thailand grant sovereignty to the predominantly Muslim Deep South and recognize the “Patani Malay Nation” was a sticking point that led to the last round of peace talks stalling in December 2013 under a civilian-led government.

The report also says insurgents are skeptical about negotiating with the junta “because it is an interim [government] and they don’t know whether the new government will have the will to follow suit.”

Government pressing on

The country’s military-led government, meanwhile, is trying to set up another pre-talks meeting in Malaysia with representatives of various rebel groups, according to an official close to the efforts.

“(We) have been contacting various dissidents. Despite not being so sure, we expect to have a new round of pre-talks in Malaysia in August,” Maj. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong told BenarNews.

Bangkok’s goal is to negotiate with the rebels and get them to agree to a road map to peace before year’s end or in early 2016, he said.

Insurgency-related violence in the Deep South should not be seen as an obstacle to efforts to bring the southern rebels back to peace talks for the first time since December 2013, Nakrob said.

Deadly weekend

This past weekend saw a surge in bombings in the region suspected to have been carried out by separatist rebels.

Overnight Friday to Saturday, at least six people were killed and 11 injured in a series of bombings and resulting fires in Songkhla province’s Padang Besar sub-district, Narathiwat province’s Su-ngai Kolok district, and Yala province’s Than Toh district, military officials said.

On Monday, two bombs went off in Pattani province, injuring four security officers. Elsewhere, three people were injured – two fatally – in separate shootings in Narathiwat. Military officials in the Deep South had warned of a possible spike in rebel attacks in the final days of Ramadan.

Meeting in Malaysia

The progress report confirms that the government is trying to arrange another pre-talk meeting in Putrajaya – Malaysia’s federal administrative center – for some time in August.

Two other pre-talk meetings took place last month, according to the report. The first was in Putrajaya on June 8 and the second took place a week later at Fort Kulayaniwattana in Narathiwat.

The next meeting, according to the report, will bring together 10 Thai participants and 10 representatives of MARA Patani, an umbrella group representing six rebel factions and groups, including BRN.

"The new talk in Putrajaya will be aimed at achieving Terms of Reference (TOR) of negotiation. It will discuss protocols – before, during and after talks – for participants to follow,” it says.

"The number of participants and the name of each individual representative will be identified. Immunity will be given to those wanted by Thailand."


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