Peace dialogue gives importance to southern sentiment

Thailand's security agencies are set to open a new chapter on problems in the deep South as the peace dialogue kicked off on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, a National Security Council (NSC) representative said.

Secretary-General of the National Security Council Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut, left, talks with chairman of the Advisory Council for Peace Building in the Southern Border Provinces Aziz Benhawan ahead of talks with separatists in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. (EPA Photo)

Bhornchart Bunnag, acting advisor on security coordination for the NSC, said the dialogue held in Malaysia between Thai security agencies and separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) showed that both sides were concerned about local sentiment and accepted that separation was not important anymore.

"We have to walk carefully in the next steps as the signing last month to start talking was not important," said Mr Bhornchart in a forum, "From Endogenous to Exogenous: The Presentation of Viable Solutions to Southern Unrest".

Security officials could not guarantee the results of the dialogue but a good indicator of the progress of the talks was a reduction in violent incidents and the turning in of those who had joined the insurgents, he said.

What the NSC must do is to focus on human resources by educating youths to learn to stay together among the different cultures, said Mr Bhornchart.

He said security was necessary to build a new climate in the southern region, otherwise the peace talks would be useless.

"Security officers must be open-minded and sincere and have positive measures to resolve the southern problem. All parties must treat the local people better," said the NSC representative, adding that this would help send a good signal to the international community, especially the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The problems in the far South reflected the unfair use of force in Thai society, said Mr Bhornchart.

Romadon Panjor, a Deep South Watch journalist, welcomed the ongoing peace talks, saying he was surprised Thai society had made such a good response to the first session.

He said this was a starting process which must employ trust and confidence between all in the talks, which might take time.

"But if there is no participation of the local people, the peace talks will be useless," Mr Romadon said, adding that all parties, both the security agencies and the separatists, needed to integrate with civil society.

Kamolsak Leewamoh, senior lawyer of the Muslim Attorneys Centre, said the peace talks were a good sign after nine years of unrest.

"This is the time for the Thai government to re-dress matters and to join hands to rebuild for a new and better climate in the area. We must listen to what the local people need, not make offers to them. This is a good time to end the problem," said Mr Kamolsak.

Three rangers were killed and five others hurt in a roadside bombing in Narathiwat early Thursday. (Photo by Waedao Harai)

He said the open talks could not resolve all problems and closed door meetings would be needed.

Meanwhile in Narathiwat's Cho Airong district early Thursday, three rangers were killed and five others wounded, two seriously, by a roadside bomb.

Lt-Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj, the 4th Army commander, said he believed the attack was intended to disrupt the peace process.

"We suspect that this was the work of local militants who want to discredit the peace talks underway in Kuala Lumpur," he said.

More than 5,300 people have been killed in the conflict in the majority-Muslim provinces in Thailand, which are under emergency law.

Rebels have carried out shootings and bombings against monks, teachers and village officials as symbols of the majority-Buddhist state.

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Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol
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