Special Report: Thailand to hold formal peace talks with rebels in two weeks

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After brokering a peace deal on February 28, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak made known that the Thai government will hold the first round of formal peace talks with the rebel group Badan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in two weeks. 

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement that initial talks between the two sides with a senior Malaysian official as mediator would begin in the middle of March.

Malaysia’s National Security Council noted that the first round of talks will focus on how both sides can cooperate.

Prime Minister Yingluck told the press in Malaysia yesterday that the government is speeding up the peace process in a bid to ensure a lasting solution in the southern border provinces, where the nine-year revolt by a number of groups has claimed more than 5,500 lives.

She added that the Thai authorities are willing to engage in the process of inclusive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders to address root causes of the problem as resolving the situation was a very important aspect in Thailand-Malaysia relationship.

The agreement to launch peace talks was signed in Kuala Lumpur on February 28 by Lieutenant-General Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary general of Thailand’s National Security Council, and Hassan Taib, a representative of the BRN. Although, analysts have cautioned that the peace deal is unlikely to immediately end the conflict because other shadowy guerrilla movements in southern Thailand have yet to agree to talks, the treaty is seen by many as marking a breakthrough in efforts to end the long-drawn conflict.

The region, which was annexed from Malaysia in 1909, has seen near-daily shootings and bomb attacks since January 2004, when the separatist insurgency by ethnic Malays resurfaced after simmering for decades. Last month, sixteen insurgents were killed in an attack on a marine base, with no loss of life among the marines. Rebels hit back with a spate of revenge attacks which include an explosion in Pattani province that killed three security volunteers.