Peace talks chief counters southern rebels' condemnation

Peace talks chief counters southern rebels' condemnation

Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj, left, meets Malaysian peace talks facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor in Bangkok early last month. (File photo)
Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj, left, meets Malaysian peace talks facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor in Bangkok early last month. (File photo)

The head of the government's southern peace talks team said on Monday he had no appointment to meet the rebel Mara Patani delegation for talks in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday and therefore no obligation to attend, despite the rebel group's demand that he do so.

The group's dialogue head, Shukri Hari, condemned Gen Udomchai for his refusal to meet them, accusing him of having a hidden agenda, and put off further talks on the violence-plagued far South until after the general election.

Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj said he was in the Malaysian capital, but only to meet Malaysian peace talks facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor.

He had sent committee secretary Maj Gen Kriangkrai Srirak to attend the informal meeting with Mara Patani representatives on the agenda for the next round of peace talks, which includes the issue of decentralisation of power.

"Mara Patani started the meeting with negative references to history, which we would like to let go. Then Mara Patani refused to talk to Maj Gen Kriangkrai and wanted to talk to me, because they knew I was there," Gen Udomchai said.

He did not meet the delegation because the meeting was not on his schedule and had not been officially set in advance. He was there only to meet the Malaysian chief facilitator.

"I represent the Thai government. Whatever I do must follow the principles and procedures of discussion. I had no appointment to meet Mara Patani," Gen Udomchai said.

As the insurgency umbrella group had nonetheless insisted on meeting him, he offered to meet only the dialogue head, Shukri Hari, to explain why he could not meet the delegation. Mara Patani rejected the proposed private meeting, Gen Udomchai said.

"I assume that Mara Patani issued the statement because it has an internal problem and these are political tactics," Gen Udomchai said.

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