Halt to bombings on the agenda
Thai side to ask insurgents to spare 'innocent civilians'An immediate halt to bombings in residential areas and attacks on innocent civilians will be on the agenda for the March 28 talks in Malaysia between Thai authorities and insurgents' representatives, National Security Council secretary-general Lt-General Paradorn Pattanathabut said yesterday in an exclusive interview with The Nation.
"They [representatives of Badan Revolusi Nasional Co-ordinate] would ask for something from us in exchange, which will be known at the meeting on March 28," he said. Speculating on what BRN would specifically ask for, Paradorn said it would probably be the expansion of areas covered by the Internal Security Act in place of the more-draconian Emergency decree.
Giving details, Southern Provinces Border Administrative Centre (SPBAC) secretary-general Tawee Sodsong, who was also at the interview, said: "Thai authorities want to see innocent civilians spared unconditionally,especially soft targets. These are defenceless people such as women, children, unarmed civilians and figures who are symbolic to the Thai state's identity, such as Buddhist monks."
SPBAC deputy director Lertkiat Wongpotipun, who has long been in the field throughout his career in civilian administration, said he would make a special request to the BRN representatives to stop bombings in residential areas, which cause widespread psychological devastation and consume much of the government's time and money.
The NSC chief and SBPAC leaders gave a special interview to Nation Multimedia Group prior to the March 28 meeting in Malaysia - the first session of the dialogue process for peace - stemming from the February 28 agreement between Thai authorities and four representatives of the BRN.
The March 28 dialogue, termed jointly by the NSC and SBPAC as a "confidence-building process" towards long-lasting peace, will see 15 members each from Thailand and the BRN-Coordinate. A shortlist of the members will be made available to each side in advance for identification and initial approval, Paradorn said.
It is not known whether all four BRN representatives who were present at the February 28 agreement signing will be part of the BRN delegation. Influential BRN chief Hassan Taib is likely to be there. BRN was also represented by its foreign relations secretary Awang Jabat, Ulama affairs chief Abdullah Sawa and internal security division chief Abdul Rahman Jabat.
Apart from the military, civilian and security authorities, the Thai side will probably include religious and local community leaders, women's rights advocates as well as a member of the Thai media, Tawee said. Asked how the talks came about, Tawee said: "It was proposed by Malaysia, amid the upcoming Asean Economic Community in 2015, with the aim to take the initiative as the region's peace broker".
Tawee said the first concrete proposal to have talks was made when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met her counterpart Najib Razak in a visit to Malaysia on February 20 last year. Several other internal talks were held between Malaysia and BRN members and bilaterally with Thailand before the final agreement on February 28. The dialogue on March 28 is expected to last from morning to evening, said Paradorn, with the trip lasting three days from March 27 to 29.
The venue will be a confidential "safehouse" in Malaysia. The previous talks were also held in undisclosed locations, he added.