Mara Patani group when they held a press conference in August  2015
Mara Patani group when they held a press conference in August 2015

Return of Mahathir unlikely to alter the course of Thai peace process

ASEAN+ May 11, 2018 01:00


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THE RETURN of Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister in Malaysia should not significantly alter the ongoing peace dialogue between the Thai government and insurgent groups from the deep South, an academic said yesterday.

“The talks should be pursued as originally intended and in keeping with the policy direction, and Malaysia’s role as facilitator should not be changed,” said Jaran Maluleem, political science lecturer from Thammasat University.

There were some changes made by different Thai governments regarding pursuing the dialogue. However, Jaran did not think that Mahathir and Najib, as former and current heads of the United Malays National Organisation, would have a different approach when it comes to foreign policies.

In recent years, a dialogue aimed at resolving the long-running insurgency mainly in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces has been pursued by the Thai military-installed government and insurgent group Mara Patani.

The Thai junta insists that talks are making “progress” although there was some conflicting information on the establishment of safety zones in the predominantly Muslim region.

Malaysia, as a country bordering the provinces, has always positioned itself as a facilitator of the dialogue, a position reluctantly conceded by Thailand.

Deputy PM and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday that the policy to pursue peace talks would not be altered but the road ahead should get clearer when the new Malaysian government was formed.

General Aksara Kerdphol, a lead Thai negotiator in the dialogue, also said that the policy should remain on a peaceful approach regardless of which party dominates parliament. “We should be firm on our stance and see their political direction first,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai contrasted Mahathir’s return to power via democratic election with the Thai junta grabbing power by staging a coup.

“Throughout the four years of this administration, you can’t prove yourself to be satisfactory to people with lack of transparency, especially on corruption,” Phumtham wrote on his Facebook status 

“There is no open space for people to choose, stand up or express opinions. This is a bad sign for the current ruling power. It is only waiting to explode,” he said.

He called for the ruling junta to hold the election soon to “get a true answer without having to make it up”.