‘Improved’ southern peace road map discussed

‘Improved’ southern peace road map discussed

First talks in nearly a year also consider Ramadan and Songkran ceasefire

A soldier stands guard as a motorcycle passes by on a street in Yala. (Bangkok Post File Photo)
A soldier stands guard as a motorcycle passes by on a street in Yala. (Bangkok Post File Photo)

Two days of peace talks in Malaysia between the Thai government and southern insurgents have resulted in an agreement to pursue an “improved” road map to resolving problems in the region, participants said on Wednesday.

The two sides also hope to agree on a ceasefire covering the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on March 10, and the Thai festival of Songkran in mid-April.

Talks resumed on Tuesday between representatives of the Thai government and the separatist Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), in search of an end to the conflict that has claimed more than 7,300 lives in the Muslim-majority region since 2004.

Technical meetings will be held to iron out details later this month and in March, Malaysian facilitator Zulkifli Zainal Abidin told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

The focus will be on ending hostilities and public consultation, he said.

The talks were the first since the Pheu Thai government took office. They also mark the first time in nine years in which the chief negotiator for the government side is a civilian. Past delegations appointed by the previous military-led government were headed by serving or retired military men. 

The two sides agreed in principle on a draft road map, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan Toward Peace (JCPP) and which includes finding a political solution to the conflict, said chief government negotiator Chatchai Bangchuad, who is also the deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council.

Anas Abdulrahman, the head of the BRN delegation, told reporters that both sides would discuss the draft text further at technical-level meetings at the end of February and in March.

The BRN has called for independence for the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Malay southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, where conflict has flared on and off for decades.

The southern region shares a border with Malaysia and was part of an independent Malay sultanate, Patani, before it was annexed by Thailand in 1909 as part of a treaty with Britain.

The most recent phase of conflict erupted in 2004, and more than 7,300 people have been killed since then, according to Deep South Watch, a group that monitors the violence. 

Peace talks were put on hold ahead of the general election on May 14 last year, as the BRN said the Thai political situation needed to be more stable before the process could move ahead further.

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