Malaysia key to South fight, NSC chief says

Kasturi's autonomy plea called a cry for attention

Malaysia's collaboration will be crucial to Thailand's efforts in ending insurgent violence in the deep South, National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabutr says.

"If Malaysia doesn't allow [insurgent] leaders and militants to flee across the border, that's good collaboration. Or if it cooperates when we ask for the hand-over of certain individuals," he said. "Such cooperation will eventually define an approach to deal with the problem."

Security officials had earlier voiced fears that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will try to formalise peace talks with southern separatists during her visit to Malaysia this week.

Ms Yingluck is scheduled to meet her Malaysian counterpart Prime Minister Najib Razak Thursday to discuss Thailand's request for Malaysia's help in solving the violence.

They are expected to issue a statement on the cooperation framework.

The NSC chief said that once Malaysian collaboration is secured, both sides will work out channels for negotiations with insurgents.

Intelligence operations of both countries would decide who the authorities should be talking to, he said, adding that Malaysia will take up the role of a coordinator in the negotiation process.

"Once the insurgent groups are identified, collaboration from Malaysia will enable Thai authorities to hinder their strategic movement and force them into talks," he said.

Lt Gen Paradorn said a new generation of militants, known as the juwae, are active in the troubled region.

He declined to discuss whether contact with the juwae would be established, saying more work is needed.

He acknowledged Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) president Kasturi Mahkota's call for southern "autonomy" on a TV Channel 3 news programme over the weekend.

However, he said that Mr Kasturi does not command armed rebels and cannot promise real change for the troubled region.

"He used to be part of the conflict, so he didn't want to be left out," he said, referring to the Pulo leader's decision to go public with the call for autonomy just as peace talks look imminent.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said the government is ready for talks with insurgents but would not accept any preconditions.

He also said he would not comment on the actions of any individuals when asked about Mr Kasturi's comments.

"[What Mr Kasturi said] is just on television and everyone is babbling about it," he said.

He dismissed speculation Ms Yingluck would sign an agreement asking Malaysia to mediate peace talks with insurgents.

Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat Tuesday played down Mr Kasturi's comments but said the Pulo chief's opinions would be taken into account by the administration.

He said the government is on the right track in tackling insurgent violence in the far South.

Fourth Army commander Udomchai Thammasaroraj echoed the NSC chief's view that Mr Kasturi was looking for attention.

He said the government would not hold talks with any groups calling for autonomy.

Related search: thailand, malaysia, deep south, patani, national security council, nsc, Paradorn Pattanatabutr, Chalerm Yubamrung, PULO, Najib Razak, Pattani United Liberation Organisation

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