Thailand’s government will not negotiate with southern insurgents who use violence to press it into accepting their demands, the chief Thai negotiator in peace talks with Deep South rebels said Friday.
Gen. Aksara Kerdpol was reacting to a BBC Thai news report that quoted a Barisan Revolusi Nasional insurgent as saying that BRN would keep such pressure up to force Bangkok to agree to its terms.
“There are many extreme groups. We won’t talk with these kinds of groups that create violence to pressure the government to accept their terms and conditions,” Aksara told BenarNews in a phone interview.
For more than two years, Aksara has headed the Thai military government’s delegation in a series of talks in Kuala Lumpur with various rebel groups represented by a panel known as MARA Patani, and that have been facilitated by Malaysia.
“Solving Deep South problems needs the comprehensive implementation of strategy, operations and tactics. The peace talks are the nation’s strategy,” Aksara said. “The idea is to denounce ‘terrorism’ by using peaceful solutions via peace talks.”
BRN, the most powerful of the rebel groups in Thailand’s troubled southern border region, is represented on the panel, but a hardline faction has repeatedly denounced the current peace efforts. Among other things, it has demanded that BRN deal directly with the government in peace talks.
On Friday, BBC News’s Thai-language service published a report in which it interviewed a man named “Yusuf,” who said he was with the information department of Barisan Revolusi Nasional. Yusuf said BRN would keep fighting Thai security forces in the heavily militarized Deep South while aiming for a negotiated peace.
“BRN will continue with military operations until the Thai government opens up for both sides to jointly solve the conflict. The military operations are not the goal, but they are a way to achieve the goal,” Yusuf told the BBC.
Security officials believe that hardcore BRN rebels have been behind violence that has gone on in the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South, in the shape of bombings and shootings, despite the two-year-old peace talks with MARA Patani.
BRN is not known for claiming responsibility for such attacks, including a roadside bombing that killed four Thai soldiers and injured six others in Pattani province on Sept. 22.
On Friday, two volunteers belonging to a local defense task force in Pattani’s Mae Lan district were injured in a motorcycle bomb attack, officials said.
In other developments in the far south on Friday, 700 marines came ashore in Narathiwat, another province in the Deep South, as they were deployed to replace troops that rotated out of the region last year, the military said.
Almost 7,000 people have been killed in violence related to the southern insurgency since the decades-old conflict re-ignited in 2004.
Thai marines disembark from an amphibious craft in Narathiwat as part of a redeployment program from central Thailand’s Chonburi province, Sept. 29, 2017. [Matahari Ismail/BenarNews]