Peace talks may stumble if truce fails during Ramadan


BANGKOK, June 21 – The Thai government may reconsider the ongoing peace talks with Muslim militant groups if attacks persist in Thailand’s deep South during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a senior military official said today.

Top Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) leaders who have been involved in peace dialogues with Thai security authorities promised in the third and latest round of talks in Kuala Lumpur to refrain from creating violence during the fasting month between July 9 and August 7.

Charoon Ampa, National Security Council (NSC) advisor, said seven or eight militant groups are responsible for the southern insurgency, and that the Thai security panel may shift to other groups rather than the BRN militants.

“We don’t concentrate on individuals in the peace talks,” he said.

Col Charoon said the context of the peace dialogues must be in accord with the Thai constitution and the BRN leaders’ five-point proposal was beyond the Thai security delegation’s power to decide.

Thai Defence Ministery spokesman Tanathip Sawangsaeng told a press conference that 291 militant suspects were arrested and 43 others killed in the government’s anti-insurgency operations since October last year.

He said the recent explosion near Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok was unrelated to southern insurgency though the bomb suspect was a native of the southern province of Narathiwat.

“Since attacks erupted in 2004, violence has never spread outside the deep South and Bangkok is not the militants’ target,” he said.

He said the government will broadcast 24-hour TV programmes in Malayu dialect in the southern region, starting July 1.

National police deputy spokesman Anucha Romyanand said a latest batch of 1,662 policemen will be dispatched to the South from August 1 while another group of 1,900 high-school graduates have been recruited and deployed at various police stations in the South.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said he will make an inspection trip to the South on June 28-29.

He will be accompanied by the media and also invited opposition Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to join him.