No realistic person could expect concrete results from two sessions of formal peace talks on the South. But the meetings with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) are taking an oddly skewed format. The militants have clearly settled on a hard-line course of high-profile violence on the ground, combined with antagonistic rhetoric both in public and in the formal meetings with Thai officials.
It should be no surprise to peace talks chief Paradorn Pattanatabut and the government, then, that the public has reacted with deep concern over its latest moves on the deep South. Lt Gen Paradorn, who is head of the National Security Council, has announced two major decisions. While the government has not linked them to the peace talks, they appear to be a direct answer to the harsh demands of the BRN's top two negotiators, Hassan Taib and a militant ideologue, Abdul Karim Khalib.
The first act will be to revoke and cancel some or all arrest warrants on suspected militants. The official reason is that local people in the deep South think the warrants are "unfair". This is nothing new, however. A constant complaint by communities and groups in the South has been that security officials arrest, mistreat and sometimes even torture innocent villagers. These complaints predate the current upsurge in violence, which began in 2004.