Prayut fed up with southern peace talks

Prayut fed up with southern peace talks

PM will not negotiate with lawbreakers

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed frustration over the stagnant southern peace talks, saying his government was left to tackle problems initiated by the last administration.

He was speaking after an unofficial meeting between Thai military representatives and the Majlis Syura Patanai (Mara Patani) group in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday failed to make any progress.

Following the meeting, Abu Hafez Al-Hakim of Mara Patani revealed the Thai team was not ready to endorse the terms of reference for the talks.

Gen Prayut said on Friday the peace talks could make headway if the other party thinks along the same lines as Thai authorities about ways to tackle the violence.

Responding to media criticism that the government has no clear intention of solving the unrest through peace talks, the prime minister said the group carried out gun attacks which breached the law, and that all the organisations involved are in violation of the law.

He said Thailand cannot negotiate with people who violate the law.

Domestic laws and justice procedures must be upheld and the Thai negotiating team must raise the issues with the group and find out whether they will accept the terms, he said, adding if they do not, the Thai delegates should come home.

He noted the talks had to be held abroad because the government must adhere to the law and constitution.

"We have avoided talks. The last government wanted to talk. That is why we have to tackle these problems now," Gen Prayut said.

"Has it [the southern problem] come to an end because of the talks?"

He also disagreed with the group's demand that the Thai government has to officially use and certify the name of the group, saying the move could encourage the emergence of other such groups.

"The government is of the opinion that the problem must be solved through justice and equality," Gen Prayut said, adding the government also has a law in place to allow insurgents to disarm and return to normal lives.

Meanwhile, Gen Aksara Kerdphol, who is leading the Thai peace talks team, insisted the talks will continue and the process is still in line with the prime minister's policy.

His assertion came amid reports the stalling of the talks was linked to Lt Gen Nakrob Bunbuathong's removal as secretary of the government's peace talks team.

Gen Aksara said Lt Gen Nakrob's transfer from his position as deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command Unit 5 cost him his position in the peace talks team.

Lt Gen Nakrob was promoted as part of a routine shake-up, he said.

Gen Aksara said he has set up a technical team to designate safe zones to instil confidence among residents, but the other party wants a joint agreement to confirm its status.

He said this was the only matter they differed on. It is important to stop violence in designated areas first and then an agreement can be struck, he said.

"What we are trying to do is separate the ideological groups from illegal networks," Gen Aksara said.

Relevant state agencies will also ensure whether certain words in the agreement violate domestic laws and international agreements, Gen Aksara said, adding "the National Security Council will ask Gen Prayut to approve it".

The fruitless talks come as no surprise to security analysts, but are a discouraging sign for an end to the 12-year-long insurgency which has seen more than 6,500 people killed.

Meanwhile, a ranger succumbed to his injuries on Thursday night following a blast at a house in Yala's Yaha district where a team of rangers were helping its owners carry out repairs, bringing the death toll to two.

Do you like the content of this article?