Door opened for talks with southern insurgent leaders

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BANGKOK, Feb 27 – A senior Thai security official today accomplished an overture for talks with leaders of the ethnic Malay Muslim insurgent groups in Thailand’s far South – another step toward resolving the decades-old insurgency and violence in the border region. 

Speaking to reporters before leaving Bangkok for Malaysia today, National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Paradorn Pattanatabutr said the Thai authorities have a list of 4-5 militant groups to be invited for talks. He will lead the Thai team which includes high-level officials of the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre and the Internal Security Operations Command.

Masae Useng and Sapae-ing Basor, two core leaders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) Coordinate, are among the insurgent leaders in the list, he said.

Lt-Gen Paradorn said Malaysia will help facilitate the talks but it is not a mediator since the southern insurgency is Thailand’s internal problem, adding that most of the insurgent leaders have been hiding on the Malaysian border.

“We have to come up with specific names to enable the Malaysian authorities to arrange for them to meet with Thai authorities. We do hope meetings with them will materialise soon,” he said.

The NSC secretary general flew to Kuala Lumpur today for a preliminary discussion with his Malaysian counterpart and to prepare for tomorrow’s official visit by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Ms Yingluck is to discuss cooperation with the neighbouring country on the southern insurgency, security, economic and human resources development, and bilateral deportation of criminals.

Lt-Gen Paradorn said the number of militants in the insurgency network in Malaysia remains sketchy but it should not reach 1,000 people.

“We have to accept their pre-conditions for talks but we will definitely not agree with a separation of Thailand’s far South as an independent state,” he stressed.