Thailand, Muslim insurgent group agree on peace talks

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 – Thailand today entered an historic agreement with an insurgent group in the Muslim-predominant far South in the country’s first concrete attempt towards a peace process in the strife-torn region.

Thai National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Paradorn Pattanatabutr signed the “general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace” with Hassan Taib, chief of the liaison office of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in Malaysia, shortly before a visit by Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to the Malaysian capital today.

Barisan Revolusi Nasional, which in Malay means National Revolutionary Front, is one of several groups blamed for the violence in southern Thailand.

Lt-Gen Paradorn said the agreement was a result of earlier talks between Ms Yingluck and her Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak, after which the Thai and Malaysian security chiefs were assigned to jointly find measures for peace in southern Thailand.

Various Muslim militant groups are keen to hold peace talks with the Thai authorities and several other groups should follow after today’s breakthrough, he said.

Gen Paradorn stood firm that there were no pre-conditions by the BRN group in today’s agreement and future talks with other groups will be held in the next few weeks.

Today’s deal will be a stepping stone for the peace process and the development of Thailand’s three southern border provinces, the Thai NSC chief said.

Narathiwat Governor Apinan Sutanuwong expressed optimism that the agreement will encourage the insurgent group to send signals to other militant movements in an attempt to end the nearly a decade-old insurgency in the far South.