Thai defence minister optimistic Kuala Lumpur deal will improve southern crisis

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BANGKOK, March 4 – The situation in Thailand’s strife-torn far South will improve following the signing of an agreement between the Thai government and a Muslim insurgent group last Thursday, Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said today.

The deal was inked by the Thai National Security Council and the liaison chief of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) militant group in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian authorities acting as witnesses.

Describing negotiations with the BRN as a channel in resolving the southern unrest, Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol said, “Talks are necessary in every battle and every fight. They are a good gesture and enable us to know how to move on instead of guessing. Security forces in the South must do their best in maintaining peace.”

He said the Kuala Lumpur agreement was the “first key” (toward unlocking a stalled peace process) while the next step is to determine the topics and venue of negotiations.

Asked why the government signed an agreement with the militants whom ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra once described as trivial criminals, the defence minister replied, “Don’t ask this kind of question. The situation has changed. Now we know what’s going on.”

Meanwhile, police in Narathiwat province reported that a 37-year-old security volunteer, identified as Marosi Yanong, was shot dead while heading for a village in Rue-so district on a motorcycle.

Police suspected that the shooter had been hiding in a rubber plantation. The victim was shot in the head and chest. (MCOT online news)