OIC ready to assist on unrest in deep South

OIC ready to assist on unrest in deep South

Madani supportive of ongoing Thai efforts

Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) left Bangkok Wednesday after a four-day visit, including talks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) left Bangkok Wednesday after a four-day visit, including talks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is ready to help Thailand and separatist rebels arrive at a political solution to solve the unrest in the deep south, OIC secretary-general Iyad Ameen Madani says.

Mr Madani, who met Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Tuesday, told reporters the OIC delegation was "very much encouraged by the positive developments under the current leadership and we sense there's a genuine attitude in solving the southern problem".

"We also offer ourselves as a facilitator as part of confidence-building measures for a political process in southern Thailand," Mr Madani said, referring to the creation of political space between the two sides and helping to talk to the rebel groups in the South.  

Mr Madani stressed the OIC was not here to impose or put itself into the situation, but to help the "already encouraging ongoing developments".

Lt Gen Nakrob Bunbuathong, deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Centre 5 in charge of the South, said Thailand took note of the offer but has not yet discussed it and no specific proposals have been made.

Mr Madani, the 10th secretary-general of the OIC, which has 57 member states, said that during his meeting with the prime minister and National Security Council officials he also discussed the question of Myanmar's Rohingya migrants, and the southern Philippines.

"We need the support of Thailand and Asean in resolving the Rohingya issue. We also brought up the issue of peace building in southern Philippines which as been delayed, and asked for Thailand's help in an Asean setting," said Mr Madani, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Asked about his Sunday meeting in Kuala Lumpur with the Majlis Syura Patani, also known as Mara Patani, the group representing insurgents taking part in talks with Thailand, Mr Madani insisted it was just a social gathering.

"We had lunch with them but we're not advocating what they want," he said.

However, he noted all sides seem interested in finding political solutions to the southern problem.

"Part of it is to recognise the uniqueness of culture and diversity. But this diversity must enrich, not weaken, national unity," the Saudi envoy said.

Mr Madani said there are three key approaches to the conflict in southern Thailand: "They are that there's no question about the integrity of the Kingdom of Thailand; the recognition of equal rights of citizenship; and religion is not the root cause, as Muslims here have freedom of religious expression."

He said the prerequisite should not be inclusiveness, which would come over time, but the process must provide opportunities to groups to show political will which will automatically act as a magnet to pull others in.

If they are to reach a political solution, both sides, not just the state, need the political space to work freely.

Lt Gen Nakrob said Thailand had no objections to the OIC secretary-general engaging any group in the political process. "We share the same approach. Actually both Mara Patani and Thailand want to meet more often but organiser Malaysia might find it inconvenient," he said.

He added the bilateral dialogue team, respectively led by Gen Aksara Kerdpol and Awae Jabat, has met four times while the technical team led by himself and Muhammad Shukri Hari has met only once, in late December.

On the plight of the Rohingya, Mr Madani said he hopes the attitude towards the Rohingya minority will change, and the OIC would be allowed to send humanitarian aid to all people in Myanmar, not just the Rohingya.

He said the Rohingya have been deprived of their citizenship and this was a human rights issue that neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Bangladesh, along with Asean, could help address.

On Thailand's repatriation of Uighurs to China, Mr Madani said this was a serious concern.

"When people find their way to Bangkok and elsewhere, their cases must be considered in a detailed manner. Claims against individuals must be verified and filtered. The OIC finds that sending them back is not an answer to this question," the secretary-general said.

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