Southern peace talks continue to go nowhere as demands from either side prevent meaningful discourse in the two decade-long border scuffle.
In the latest salvo, the Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon has scoffed at a demand by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, the most prominent of the southern insurgency groups, to release suspects in security cases before peace negotiations can recommence.
“How could they possibly suggest something like that?”
The insurgency in the Malay-speaking region of predominantly Buddhist Thailand has killed some 7,000 people over the past 15 years and weekly attacks are still a feature of southern provincial life.
The BRN group officials told Reuters that they met a Thai delegation at “a location in Southeast Asia” on Friday and demanded the release of all people detained over suspected links to the insurgency and a transparent investigation into abuses by Thai security forces.
70 year old Pak Fakir, a senior BRN member spoke to Reuters in somewhat opaque metaphors.
“If the official peace talks are a feast then these secret meetings are like bringing the cow into the kitchen, but the cow is not even slaughtered yet. The Thai state is like an oiled, slippery eel.”
The Thai delegation attending the weekend meeting allegedly included a team headed by the government’s designated chief negotiator General Udomchai Thamasarorat although the General has declined to comment on whether a meeting ever took place.
An unarmed military source says the efforts to stem the insurgency in the far South had been complicated by the reported interference by elements from a foreign state that allegedly provided training to insurgent operatives active in the southern border provinces.
The source also claimed another insurgency group, Patani United Liberation Organisation, was attempting to organise weapons training sessions for its younger members.
Past contacts with BRN never led to official high-level talks and the group has maintained a guerrilla war demanding independence for the Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat which were part of an independent Malay sultanate before the kingdom of Siam annexed them in 1909.
Pak Fakir stated that the groups will never attack northward of the three southern provinces as they don’t wish to be perceived as ‘terrorists’.
“The root cause of our problem is colonisation and this has never been touched upon in past talks.”Facebook page.
Roadside ambush in Pattani kills 1 and injures another
Last night southern police reported that at 7pm a paramilitary ranger was shot dead and another injured in a roadside ambush in Sai Buri district in the Pattani province. There has been an unofficial ceasefire between the insurgent factions and government soldiers and rangers, during April and the height of the Covid-19 crisis, but that now seems to be over.
An initial investigation revealed that 2 men from the 44th Ranger Regiment – 31 year old Sitthichai Pakdiphan and 28 year old Pongchai Pongthong – were travelling on a motorcycle after going through a health screening checkpoint to buy food at a nearby village.
As they neared a bridge, a group of men on the roadside opened fire at them. Sitthichai was hit in the head and the back. He died on the spot. Pongchai was shot in the right arm.
Due to the lack of information about the incident authorities have set a 500 metre premier around the crime scene for further investigationFacebook page.
First month in 16 years with no insurgency attacks in Thailand
Last month was the first in 16 years in which there were no insurgent attacks on Thai forces or civilians, either in Thailand’s restive Deep South or elsewhere. The country’s three Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, all around Malaysia’s northern border, have been embroiled in a bloody separatist insurgency for the best part of two decades.
More than 7,000 people have been killed by violence and many more injured in fighting, which has often seen civilians targetted.
But the coronavirusoutbreak has prompted an ad-hoc ceasefire between the Thai government forces and the mainly ethnic Malay separatists. The main militant group operating in the area, Barisan Revolusi Nasional, released a statement Friday saying that the “cessation of all activities” is “to provide humanitarian access to all parties to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic.”
The group says that the ceasefire was to remain as long as the BRN was not attacked by the Thai government, according to documents shared by Human Rights Watch. (NOTE: 3 suspected insurgents were killed in a firefight with Thai forces on Thursday after a raid on their house in Pattani. All three were wanted criminals.)
The BRN also criticised the Thai government for continuing house searches, arbitrary arrests and DNA collection.
“We call upon the Royal Thai Government to reciprocate and prioritise Covid-19 prevention over war at this time.”
Peace talks between the BRN and the Thai Government have made slow progress in recent months but have been derailed by the coronavirus outbreak. In March, the two sides met in Kuala Lumpur for face-to-face meetings, 6 years after the BRN’s last dialogue with the Thai government. The talks were described as “constructive” and focused on reducing levels of violence.
Unfortunately, the outbreak of Covid-19 in Thailand has meant the government placing its priorities elsewhere, as lockdown measures were enacted to curtail the virus’ spread.
Sources within the Thai army tell the Thai Enquirer that right now the army and the Ministry of Public Health are focused on containing the virus in the South, which is the site of the largest outbreak outside of Bangkok.
“The insurgency and peace talks can wait until after we have this under control.”
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3 suspected insurgents killed in Pattani
Authorities shot and killed 3 suspected insurgents on Thursday in Pattani province in Thailand’s deep South, long the home of a bloody separatist insurgency. Security forces believe the men were planning to mount an attack during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The shootings are the first act of violence since Malaysia’s Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or National Revolutionary Front rebels declared in early April they were was ceasing “all activities” on humanitarian grounds because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the group warned it would resume operations if Thai government forces attacked its fighters.
Piyapong Wongchan, Pattani’s chief of police, says the raid took place before dusk a village in Nong Chik district, as residents of Thailand’s mainly Muslim Deep South were preparing to break their fast at the end of the seventh day of the holy month.
“Prior to the shootout, we received intelligence that a group of insurgents took a break in the area [before] they planned to exploit Ramadan to launch an attack. This morning informants found suspicious strangers hiding in an unregistered house.”
The raid turned violent as joint security forces surrounded a house in Pakaruesong village.
“As officials were circling the house and calling them out, the perpetrators opened fire.”
Piyapong says the 3 men in the house were killed and one police officer was injured in the shootout. He says arrest warrants had already been posted for all 3 men for their alleged involvement in other crimes.
Investigators say one of the men, Yusof Mometoh, participated in an August 2016 bombing in southern Thailand outside of the Deep South, one of several bombings over two days that killed four and injured more than 30 people. Most of the attacks targetted southern tourist hotspots including Phuket and Hua Hin.
Matamesee Sa-e, the second slain suspect, has been charged with looting a gold shop last year, and the third, Abdul Yasi Pakya, has been charged for his role in the bombing of a Big C superstore in Pattani in 2017. BenarNews could not contact their survivors on Thursday.
An army spokesman say authorities have been put on alert to safeguard the region from possible bombings.
“Though Ramadan is a holy month for doing good deeds, we found perpetrators who were trying to mount attacks.”
More than 7,000 people have died in the Deep South since the insurgency reignited in January 2004. The region encompasses the Malay-speaking provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, as well as four districts in neighboring Songkhla.
In a YouTube posting on Thursday, a BRN spokesman blamed the government for taking advantage of the Covid-19 shutdown across the region to launch the raid.
“The BRN condemns the Thai government for this inhumanity and we hope that all people are looking forward to managing their villages against the outbreaks and the abusive regime.”Facebook page.
Thailand News Today – Tuesday, May 26
Woman charged after abandoning cats at Wat Pho
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3 quarantined returnees confirmed with Covid-19 in Thailand (May 26)
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Deputy PM says politics not involved in Emergency Decree extension
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Thailand’s economic forecast among Asia’s worst: central bank governor to step down
Thai police deny using emergency decree as political tool
Millions of baht worth of cigarettes seized after smuggled over Burmese border
Criticism over bad English lesson in Thai online class
Thai massage shops may reopen soon, from the waist down only
Most of Thailand placed on storm alert
Thais on repatriation flight from London were reported with ‘fevers’
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Ex high ranking Buddhist officials convicted of embezzling millions
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Pattaya massage shops petition government to be allowed to reopen
Phuket’s lost summer – looking to 2021 for tourism recovery
Thailand scores highest for mask-wearing in survey of ASEAN nations
Man arrested for growing 1,200 cannabis plants
More trouble for ailing Thai Airways as Airbus calls in its debts
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Thailand News Today – Wednesday, April 22
Thailand News Today – Tuesday, April 21
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