NSC reveals talk with BRN

National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr on Wednesday revealed details of his latest meeting with Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) liaison office chief Hassan Taib, in which both sides have agreed to endorse a peace dialogue process, after their historic pact signed last week.

  • Published: 6/03/2013 at 04:46 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Lt Gen Paradorn said he flew to Malaysia on Tuesday to meet Mr Hassan. They agreed to sign an accord endorsing Malaysia-brokered peace talks on the far South, beginning on March 28.

At Tuesday's talk, Lt Gen Paradorn and Mr Hassan agreed to appoint Dato Sri Ahmad Zamzamin bin Hashim, former director of Malaysia's national intelligence agency, as a facilitator in the future dialogue between the government and the BRN.

The March 28 meeting will focus on drawing frameworks for future negotiations, including a decision on the names of members of a joint working panel.

NSC secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr, left, shakes hands with chief of Thailand's BRN liason office in Malaysia, Hassan Taib (R), as they exchange documents during the signing ceremony of the general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace in Thailand's southernmost provinces, in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 28, 2013. (EPA Photo)

Lt Gen Paradorn said he would propose that the government include civil society representatives, academics, legal experts and delegates from the three southern border provinces in the peace process. They would help consider proposals offered by the BRN and other insurgent groups at any future talks.

He said representatives from other insurgent groups might attend the March 28 meeting, as Mr Hassan pledged to invite them. He would not elaborate on which groups might be included.

A decrease in violence in the lower South between now and March 28 would bring a positive atmosphere to the talks, he said.

"I asked him if he could send a signal to militant operatives in the three southern border provinces to reduce the level of their insurgent activities, and Mr Hassan told me he would do that," Lt Gen Paradorn said.

The NSC secretary-general admitted that he could not expect an immediate outcome from Mr Hassan in his appeal. 

"Mr Hassan appears to have sincerity, and the intention to solve the problem through dialogue with us," he told the media. "The Malaysian government and Special Branch police also fully cooperate with us.

"Now we don't have to think if he [Mr Hassan] is the real one or the fake one [for his role in the deep South] because Malaysia is acting as a coordinator. We only wait and see whether he will be able to send the signal [to lower the level of violence] into the area."

According to an army source who asked to remain anonymous, Lt Gen Paradorn was scheduled to meet with representatives of Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) and with Sapae-ing Basor, believed to be the leader of the Barisan Resolusi Nasional-Coordinate, the armed wing of the BRN, later this month. The source said the meeting was postponed because Mr Sapae-ing, 68, became ill.

"He [Mr Sapae-ing] may be feeling uncertain and want to see the Thai authorities' [peace talk] stance first. He may want to be sure before he comes out" to meet the Thai government, the source said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said he will also meet former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on March 28, the same day of the peace talks.

Dr Mahathir brokered talks between Thai military leaders and exiled leaders of older insurgency groups on Langkawi island in 2005. The process failed to resolve the violence, which has gone on to claim more than 5,000 lives.

Opposition Democrat Party MPs representing the southernmost provinces criticised the government for signing the peace pact with the BRN. 

Democrat MP for Yala province Prasert Pongsuwansiri said the government was handling the southern unrest like a marketing man, and was rushing through the process.

"I want to know what the government is hoping to gain from this signing because the level of violence in the far South increased the day after the signing," Mr Prasert said.

The government needed to show sincerity and stop marketing itself to solve the southern unrest, he added.

Democrat MP for Narathiwat Surachet Wae-asae criticised the government and the NSC for what he said was a lack of clear direction.

He said the government had announced that the Emergency Decree would be replaced with the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the region, but the NSC secretary-general said he would need to discuss it with the insurgent group first.

"The NSC is turning people in the South into hostages by negotiating with the insurgent group, and this also shows that the government has no clear direction in solving the problem," Mr Surachet said.

Democrat MP for Pattani Anwar Saleh said he had seen no positive signs in the South after Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm was appointed to oversee security in the region.

"Mr Chalerm told us that he would visit the region after (last) Sunday's Bangkok governor election. Is the value of southern people's lives less than those of the Pheu Thai Party?

"If Mr Chalerm thinks he does not have to visit the South and believes the situation will improve, he can resign," Mr Anwar said.

Thaworn Senneam, deputy leader of the Democrat Party who oversaw the southern strategy during the previous administration, said his party supported the dialogue but disagreed with the signing of the accord.

He said such a deal could be seen as recognising rebel groups, potentially leading to other countries intervening in Thailand's domestic affairs.

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Writer: Wassana Nanuam
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