Government claims OIC support
The secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed his appreciation for the Thai government's efforts to bring an end to the southern unrest, a junta spokesman said.
The spokesman said Iyad Ameen Madani, the 10th OIC secretary-general, made the remark at a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House Tuesday, said deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukhondhapatipak.
He also suggested the government exploit political mechanisms in its peace talks with the southern insurgents.
Meanwhile, Gen Prayut told the OIC secretary-general the government was working on southern development projects to complement the talks.
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The government has been holding peace talks with Mara Patani, an umbrella group representing insurgents, to seek solutions to end the deep South's violence-related problems.
The government sources said the OIC delegation supported the role of Mara Patani in the talks and reminded Thailand of its pledge in 2007 and 2012 to provide greater recognition to Muslims in the region, and scale down its military presence.
Government officials said Mr Madani met Gen Prayut, Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Virasak Futrakul and Chularatchamontri Aziz Phitakkumpon, the spiritual leader of Thai Muslims and other high-level officials during his four-day visit to Thailand. He is to leave Thailand Wednesday.
As for the OIC, neither Mr Madani nor his spokesman commented on the discussions with Gen Prayut or with other Thai officials. They confirmed the Saudi visitor had met and talked with National Security Council secretary-general Gen Thawip Netniyom - talks not mentioned by the government spokesman - and the Chularatchamontri, Mr Aziz, also known by the Arabic term, Sheikhul Islam.
Mr Madani's spokesmen also revealed he visited the Chularatchamontri-sponsored Wasatiyyah Institute for Peace and Development, meant to develop religious leaders and create better understanding between Muslims and people of other faiths.
He also met members of the International Institute of Peace Studies (IIPS), a grassroots NGO that according to its charter, "uses education to promote multiculturalism and peace between people of different faiths and backgrounds".
The six-member OIC delegation included a special envoy from Malaysia, Hamid Syed Albar, as an experet on the plight of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar. He raised the issue of Rohingya migrants who have landed on Thai shores in the past few years but neither side revealed the result of the discussion.
The OIC met representatives from Mara Patani and civil society organisations separately in Kuala Lumpur before coming to Thailand on Sunday evening.
In an hour-long discussion, five representatives from Thai civil society "discussed injustice, a lack of appropriate development projects, and unwillingness of the Thai state to recognise the history of Patani and its legacy", according to sources at the meeting.
Mr Madani reportedly asked the activists what they would like to see the OIC do.
"They could support Malaysia's role as host of the negotiations by providing a platform for the discussion that could bring about hikmah [philosophical knowledge] on how Islam and peace are related," one participant said.