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Preparations underway for Deep South peace talks

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Preparations underway for Deep South peace talks | Thaiger


– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Preparations underway for Deep South peace talks
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: As moves to restore peace in the Deep South go into motion, the Army’s chief adviser Gen Aksara Kerdpol said yesterday that he will speak with facilitators in Malaysia in the middle of this month to get dialogue guidelines. He added that the negotiation team will comprise of no more than 15 members.

Deputy Defence Minister Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, meanwhile, said yesterday that after the Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Malaysia on December 1, it was now Gen Aksara’s responsibility as chief negotiator to start preparing for the peace dialogue, which is in the process of beginning.

On November 26, PM Gen Prayut signed an order to establish a mechanism to kick-start a peace dialogue with insurgents, an informed source said yesterday.

The order specifies the setting up of a Steering Committee for Dialogue, which would be chaired by Gen Prayut and include the Army chief, the Justice Ministry permanent secretary, the National Intelligence Agency director, the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) secretary-general and the National Security Council secretary-general.

This committee will be in charge of making policies and setting the direction of the dialogue and its scope to ensure consistency, unity and effectiveness. The order also assigns Gen Aksara as the new chief negotiator for the dialogue.

Another team, namely the Area-based Inter-agency Coordination Working Group, will comprise of the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) Region 4 chief, SBPAC deputy chief, provincial administrative officials, police, military officers, civil society representatives and experts. The working group would create a peace-enabling environment, coordinate with agencies to follow up on developments and open communication channels with insurgents.

In related news, an informed source reported that the government was planning to hold peace talks with 14 insurgent groups starting with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) whose liaison office chief Hassan Taib attended the 2013 dialogue. This time, the talks will be facilitated by Ahmad Zamzamin bin Hashim, the former chief of Malaysia’s national intelligence agency.

Looking to close loopholes

During Prayut’s visit to Malaysia on Monday, he and Prime Minister Najib Razak discussed issues in the restive South, including the dual-nationality status that is a loophole taken advantage of by insurgents. However, the two leaders did not touch on the BRN’s five-point demand.

This time around, Thailand has come up with a clearer plan of action by setting up six or seven subcommittees for several tasks, including security for local residents, social and cultural work and foreign affairs.

Meanwhile, Sama-ae “Hayisama-ae Thanam” Sa-ah, former chief of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation who is serving a life sentence in Yala Prison since 2011 for leading a separatist mutiny, called on the government to learn from the previous administration’s mistake of talking to just one group of separatists.

“There are many separatist groups active here,” said the man who is known as an ideological fighter with a good insight into the region’s issues.

He said success would come if the separatist groups were also united – possibly like the Palestine Liberation Organisation, a conglomeration of groups opposing Israel – to represent and follow the talks agreement.

Sama-ae also called on both parties to be sincere and learn to keep secrets so information is not leaked to the detriment of the other side.

He added that talks should be kept confidential until an agreement is reached.

“If you want peace, you need to work together to find a way and then a mutual contract between the government and insurgents in the region can be signed before it is revealed to the public,” he said.

He added that he was confident the government under Prayut would succeed because it was in total control.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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