Thailand, BRN rebels to resume in-person peace talks next month

Mariyam Ahmad and Muzliza Mustafa
2022.07.11
Pattani, Thailand and Kuala Lumpur
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Thailand, BRN rebels to resume in-person peace talks next month A woman walks at a market in Pattani, a province in Thailand’s Deep South, March 16, 2019.
[Panu Wongcha-um/Reuters]

In-person peace talks between Thailand’s government and Deep South separatist insurgents will resume in the Kuala Lumpur area in early August, Thai officials and the chief negotiator from the BRN rebel group said Monday.

Officials representing Thailand’s Peace Dialogue Panel and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) met in Putrajaya last week to hash out procedures for next month’s Malaysian-brokered talks as well as discuss a pause in violence during Buddhist Lent, which runs from July 14 to Oct. 10, said Gen. Thira Daehwa, secretary for the Thai panel.

“Both dialogue partners agreed to set the 5th full-delegation talk dates on Aug. 1 to 2, in Malaysia. The Thai dialogue panel will be led by Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh, while the BRN by Ustaz Anas Abdulrahman,” Thira said in a statement.

Anas Abdulrahman, the BRN lead negotiator who is also known as Hipni Mareh, confirmed the dates with BenarNews as well.

The last round of in-person peace talks between the two sides was held at a hotel near the Malaysian capital on March 31-April 1.

They yielded the Ramadan Peace Initiative, by which BRN separatist rebels and Thai security forces agreed to cease hostilities in Thailand’s southern border region throughout Islam’s holy month of fasting and into mid-May. Additionally, in a first, unarmed rebels were allowed to visit their families during that period.

The proposal for a pause in violence during Buddhist Lent stems from the Ramadan Peace Initiative and, if successful, would allow Buddhist monks to practice their religious rites for three months uninterrupted, said Rukchart Suwan, president of Buddhists for Peace, an organization based in Yala province.

“To show recognition of the variety of faiths and cultures in Deep South, may both sides discuss peaceful Buddhist Lent from July 14 until Oct. 10, 2022,” he said.

BRN’s Anas told BenarNews that the proposal would be discussed in August.

“In reference to the reduction in action, it has to be based on the mutual agreement at the negotiation table in accordance to the norms, the method and the mechanism of [a] ceasefire,” he said.

“This has to be discussed between BRN and the Thai government on [the] joint monitoring team, the specific and clear areas, the timeline and the participation of third parties and so on.”

Meanwhile, another separatist group, the Patani United Liberation Front (PULO), late last month asked that it be allowed to join the Thai-BRN peace talks as well. In mid-April, during Ramadan, PULO carried out twin roadside bombing that killed a villager and injured three police bomb-squad members, saying it did so because it had been shut out of the talks.  

The attacks shattered the 40-day Ramadan ceasefire.

Last week, during the deadliest violence since then, Thai soldiers killed at least three BRN suspects and arrested one in two separate shootouts in Pattani and Narathiwat provinces. They also killed two suspected PULO rebels and arrested eight combatants in Yala, saying the suspects had admitted that they belonged to PULO.

The Deep South encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala provinces and four districts of Songkhla province in Thailand’s majority-Muslim Malay southern border region.

Since the insurgency reignited in January 2004, more than 7,000 people have been killed and 13,500 others injured in violence across the region, according to Deep South Watch, a local think-tank.

The armed separatist movement against Buddhist majority Thailand began in the 1960s. The movement’s primary demand had been independence for the region.

A formal peace process to solve the issue began in 2013 but never got far.

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