Thai government, southern insurgents set March 28 for talks


BANGKOK, March 6 – The Thai government and a southern militant group will hold their first round of talks in Malaysia on March 28 to discuss measures to resolve long-standing crisis in the three ethnic Malay Muslim-majority border provinces, a senior Thai official said Wednesday.

Appearing before the House standing committee on national security, National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Paradorn Pattanathabut said other insurgent factions will be invited to the talks which, he believed, will lead to progress in resolving the southern unrest.

Lt Gen Paradorn represented Thailand in signing an agreement with a Barisan Revolusi Nasional militant group in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur last Thursday – a move the Thai and Malaysian prime ministers hailed as the starting point of a peace process.

The NSC chief said the deal was an opening for those who think differently to participate in resolving the southern crisis and alleviating violence as part of preparations for the ASEAN Economic Community in the next two years.

Pol Maj Gen Chamroon Kachasith, a representative of the Southern Border Police Operations Centre, told the House committee that he agreed with enforcing Article 21 of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the border region.

National Intelligence Bureau director Suwapan Tanyuwattana said the situation in five southern districts improved after the ISA was imposed, adding that the government was on the right track, particularly in its policy of political negotiations to resolve the crisis.

Thavorn Senneam, deputy leader of the opposition Democrat Party, said he will give his proposals on resolving the southern problems to the prime minister and her deputy, Chalerm Yubamrung, after having observed the authorities’ routine operations in the region.

He urged the government to work on a clear plan for the peace process and seek opinions from southern people on abolishing the Emergency Decree.

The top echelon Democrat party leader said the government should call off its peace negotiations with the BRN insurgent group for “talks with them are tantamount to recognising rebel movements in the South.