Southern Thailand Rebel Groups Set Up Umbrella Group for Peace Talks

By BenarNews Staff

2015-05-13
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150513-TH-peacetalks-620 Firefighters try to put out a fire started by a car bomb that killed one person and injured 33 in Yala province, southern Thailand, April 6, 2014.
AFP

Updated at 10:03 a.m. ET on 2015-05-14

Six rebel groups from Thailand’s restive Deep South region have established an umbrella group in preparation for upcoming peace talks with the government, sources close to the process told BenarNews.

The new round of Malaysia-brokered negotiations will take place at the end of this month or early next month, according to a Thai security official and a former Southern rebel who both spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I recently talked to my PULO friend in Malaysia and he said that the new round of talks will certainly take place in Malaysia in late May or early June,” a former member of the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) rebel group told BenarNews.

The talks would be the first since December 2013 aimed at solving the long-running separatist insurgency in the predominantly-Muslim Deep South, where more deadly violence was reported this week.

On Tuesday, a vice president of Khao Toom sub-district in Pattani province, 48-year-old Umah Kuteh, was killed in a roadside shooting and, in nearby Yala province, suspected separatists burned six motorcycles belonging to civilians, local news outlets reported.

Elsewhere in Pattani, a security volunteer was shot dead in Baan Namsai village Tuesday night as he rode his motorcycle home in Mayor district. On Wednesday night, security forces killed a suspected insurgent during a shootout with a group of armed men hiding out in Baan Budon, another village in the district.

Secret meeting

According to the Thai security official, this past weekend Malaysia’s Joint Working Group-Peace Dialogue Process (JWG-PDP) called a secret meeting of representatives of southern insurgents groups residing in Malaysia, and they agreed to form an umbrella body to unify six rebel groups at the upcoming peace talks.

The umbrella, known as the MARA Patani, includes three factions of PULO as well as the Barisan Islam Perberbasan Pattani (BIPP), Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and the Gerakan Mujahideen Islami Pattani (GMIP) rebel groups, the official said.

“The six groups agreed to establish MARA Patani so that all sides of dissidents could establish in-communication swiftly with unity,” the source told BenarNews.

“This is the first official meeting of the MARA Patani following an informal meeting in Indonesia,” the official added. “All six agreed that the MARA Patani would be the top-tier organization to negotiate with the Thai government.”

In Bangkok, Maj. Gen. Nakrob Boonbuathong of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), who has been involved in back-channel efforts to bring about the talks between Thailand’s military-led government and the southern rebels, confirmed that a new round of dialogue would start within the coming weeks.

“There will be a peace talk in late May or early June,” Nakrob told BenarNews. “There will be a positive result out of the dialogue.”

Past talks

Before the Thai military seized power in a coup last May, at least two rounds of peace talks took place between southern rebel groups and the then civilian-led government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

They began after Thailand’s National Security Council signed an agreement with Barisan Revolusi Nasional in Kuala Lumpur in February 2013, which paved the way for talks.

But they stalled in July 2013 when both sides accused one another of violating the terms of a Ramadan ceasefire. The talks took another hit in December of that year, when the government rejected five demands presented in a YouTube video by BRN negotiator and chief Hassan Bin Toyib.

One of these demands was that Thailand grant the Deep South sovereignty and recognize the “Patani Malay Nation,” which was unacceptable to Bangkok.

In March 2014, both sides expressed hope that the peace talks would resume but the overthrow of Yingluck’s government disrupted prospects for a fresh round of negotiations.

Since January 2004, more than 6,000 people have been killed and more than 11,000 injured in the conflict in Thailand's far southern region, according to statistics compiled by Deep South Watch.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly placed Mayor district in Songkhla province.

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