Thailand peace talks resume

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PETALING JAYA: The southern Thai rebels and the Thai government will resume peace talks here next month even as a spate of violence continues to rock the region.

Representatives from both sides will meet on March 7 at a hotel here to find ways to end the decades-old insurgency.

Last month, bombers set off at least 13 explosions in a southern Thai town while police killed two suspected insurgents in a raid after a 20-hour siege in a neighboring province.

The siege reportedly took place in Narathiwat province where a combined force of soldiers and police surrounded a house, following a tip that suspects linked to last year’s bombings were hiding inside.

Rebels and Thai government officials had last met here in January in an eight-hour physical meeting after being unable to do so for nearly two years. It was conducted online then because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two sides discussed a three-point plan, which included a reduction in violence as the basis for further talks to end the fighting led by the powerful Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

The BRN is a heavily armed group operating in four provinces, namely Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, which make up the Deep South of Thailand.

BRN is also known as Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani and was founded by a certain Haji Abdul Karim in 1963.

The population of these provinces close to the Malaysian border is mainly made up of Muslim Malays.

The facilitator of the talks is former Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor, who represents the Malaysian government.

He confirmed the meeting would be held at a hotel in Petaling Jaya on March 7, but declined to give further details.

Rahim had said in January that meetings had progressed “very well”, but declined to provide details.

Negotiations involved Thai government officials with chief negotiator Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh and the BRN led by Anas Abdulrahman @ Hipni Mareh.

Also present were representatives of Thailand’s National Security Council as well as the Thai Attorney General’s Office.

The relentless cycle of violence in southern Thailand began in 2004 and is believed to have left at least 7,000 dead and 13,500 injured to date. In May 2021, Thai security forces were reportedly in a three-hour standoff with two separatist insurgents in a small remote village of Yala.

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