Independent network backs peace dialogue for South

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BANGKOK, March 27 – A civic group in Thailand’s far South has submitted an open letter to the government, advocating support for tomorrow’s peace talks between a Thai delegation and Muslim militant groups.

Representatives of the Patani and Peace-Loving People Network presented the letter to National Security Council Secretary General Paradorn Pattanathabut at Government House yesterday.

Network core member Hakim Pongtikoh said the open letter reflects the opinions of over 7,000 people in the far South.

He said the group supports the Thai authorities’ peace talks with militant leaders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) on the condition that no agreement with negative impacts on the southern people must be signed.

The Thai delegates must not agree to withdrawal of Thai military troops from the South or an abolition of the Emergency Decree, Mr Hakim said.

Lt Gen Paradorn, leading the Thai delegation for the  talks in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, said proposals from the network will be summarised and forwarded to the Thai delegates.

The general said the prime minister acknowledged the names of the 15 Thai members for the dialogue, and ruled out a report that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be in Malaysia during the peace talks.

Gen Paradorn said the BRN has named five Muslim members for the talks as Hassan Toib, its leader, two BRN Coordinate member, and one each from the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) and the Barisan Islam Pembangunan Pattani (BIPP).

Some preliminary proposals by the Muslim militant groups are withdrawal of Thai troops from the South, assigning Malaysia as mediator for the dialogues and amnesty for wrongdoers.

Meanwhile, officials were searching for people who distributed placards reading “Peace, Independence for Pattani State” in various districts in Pattani and Narathiwat provinces.

Police have been on full alert in the southern region as the Kuala Lumpur dialogue approaches.