The decision by the government to finally engage the sponsors of separatism across a conference table is a brave one. It is a step that governments have refused to take for more than 50 years. The optimistically labelled "peace talks" are the first step that may help to bring some reason to the very unreasonable situation in the deep South. But they may also fail.
The government committed itself on Feb 28 to a "peace dialogue" with a group based in Malaysia. Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabutof the National Security Council recognised the Islamic cleric Hassan Taib as an influential member of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN). The BRN, formed in 1960, has long been known as a driving force behind the effort to win independence for the three southern provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, plus part of Songkhla.
Malaysia, which has a special - although never carefully defined - interest in Thailand's southern region, vouched for Mr Taib's bona fides as a senior BRN member.
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