OIC supports South peace dialogue

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has welcomed Thailand’s peace dialogue with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and pledged support to any initiatives that lead to peace and stability in southern Thailand, according to the official website of the 57-member organisation.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is currently visiting Europe, and members of her entourage such as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, discussed the southern situation with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the OIC, in Istanbul on Saturday.

It was the first meeting between the top official of the global Muslim representative organisation and the head of the present Thai government.

The Thai premier pledged to engage positively with the OIC on the issue of the southern border provinces and emphasised her wish to secure peace and stability in that region, the OIC website said. 

Mr Ihsanoglu encouraged the Thai authorities to accelerate the ongoing process of confidence building measures and to address the root causes of the problem through a comprehensive approach based on empowering the population of the southern provinces to assume the responsibilities of their internal affairs through a system that allows them to exercise their cultural and linguistic specificities and manage their natural resources under the full respect for the country's constitution and territorial integrity, the OIC statement said.

He further welcomed the steps of the Thai government, in cooperation with Malaysia, to start a constructive dialogue with the BRN, "one of the opposition factions, in order to develop a road map to resolve the existing problems through dialogue". He expressed the hope that in future this dialogue would expand and be more inclusive so that other organisations and groups representing Muslims in southern Thailand can participate.

Prime Minister Yingluck said that following the common understanding expressed in the Joint Press Statement issued after the secretary-general's visit to Thailand in 2007 and the statement following the 2012 visit of the secretary-general's Special Envoy, Sayed Kassem El-Masry, the government was in the process of lifting the emergency law in five areas following a process of consultation with the local communities.

Progress had also been made in the field of education where government-supported schools and religious learning centres catering to the local population had been established in the South earlier this year, she reportedly told the OIC secretary general.

She reiterated that Thailand would like to see the OIC's support in its endeavour towards peaceful solutions to the problems of the South.

The Thai leader told the OIC top official that after several meetings the government had agreed with armed insurgent groups in the South for a ceasefire to take place during the Holy month of Ramadan.

Mr Ihsanoglu said the OIC supported all peaceful initiatives that guaranteed the human rights of citizens and developed mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation for the betterment of all communities in Thailand.

He also expressed the willingness of the OIC to contribute to the process of confidence building, dialogue and economic development in the region through the support of the Islamic Development Bank and other OIC organs and agencies.

Both sides, however, stopped short of referring to one of the BRN demands that the OIC become an observer in the Malaysia-brokered peace talks.

Meanwhile, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre's (SBPAC) efforts to relocate security-related prisoners, mostly Muslim detainees from the South, to prisons in their home regions before Ramadan have faced some hiccups.

Although the move was welcomed by activists in the southernmost provinces, particularly women's groups, they were keeping their fingers crossed as only a small number have been be transferred.

Only six of the 36 prisoners from Bang Kwang Prison were transferred to Songkla Central Prison over the weekend.

Communications and coordination between the SBPAC, the prisoners and the holding authorities – the Corrections Department -- were slow and cumbersome. While some prisoners said they would like to be sent to a prison near their home rather than to Songkhla Central Prison, others preferred to stay in Bangkok.

The Justice Ministry’s amendment to the prison's authority in detaining the inmates was announced in the Royal Gazette early last month, expanding Songkhla Central Prison's role of keeping prisoners with the maximum penalty of life imprisonment to accomodating those with sentences ranging from 15 years to the death penalty.

Prisons in Yala and Pattani provinces were also upgraded from detaining convicts with not more than 20 years to detaining those with 15 years to 30 years of imprisonment.

The Songkhla Provincial Prison, which usually detains inmates with sentences of not more than 15 years, now can hold prisoners with not more than 25 years of imprisonment.

Related search: thailand, south, insurgents, organisation of islamic cooperation, oic, yingluck, peace talks, brn

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Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
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