Islamic committees in the South back govt's plan for talks with separatists
The Islamic committees of five southern border provinces yesterday voiced their support for the government's plan for peace talks with separatists in the restive region.The religious leaders held a meeting with Fourth Army Area commander Lt-General Udomchai Thammasaroj, Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre chief Thawee Sodsong, and senior local officials in Yala's Muang district.
The officials explained to the religious leaders about the February 28 signing of an agreement in Malaysia between Thailand's security authorities and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).
Yala Islamic Committee deputy chair Russadi Bakoh said that this move was a good development, signalling the beginning of the restoration of peace in the region. He said he had talked to many locals and found that they agreed with and supported the government's approach.
He urged that further talks should see more details about what could be done and what could not be done. He said the most important thing was everyone should be sincere in solving the problem because society has been waiting for a solution for a long time. He said the Islamic committees in five Southern border provinces had all along been supporting talks.
Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of Deep South Watch, Prince of Songkhla University's Pattani Campus, urged the talks to cover all sides, including BRN and Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) and must also include the local public's participation. Saying that it remained unclear if the continuous violent attacks in the region stemmed from the move towards talks, he expressed hope that the negotiations in the long term would lead to truce and inspection of arms. He said local religious leaders also had an important role in the talks because there were the locals' spiritual leaders.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomal-yasut yesterday accused the government of seeking political leverage by rushing to hold peace talks with Malaysia-based BRN chief Hassan Taib.
National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr on Thursday met and spoke to Hassan in the presence of Malaysian authorities as mediators. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the peace talks would take place in Kuala Lumpur in the next two weeks.
Chavanond said he suspected that Hassan was the same man former Army chief General Chetta Thannajaro had claimed to have signed a peace agreement with five years ago.
"If it is the same man, the violence in the South will definitely not be curbed by this peace agreement," he said.
He also said former PM Thaksin Shinawatra had said he had nothing to do with the negotiations with the BRN boss, which contradicted what his sister PM Yingluck Shinawatra had said.
Pheu Thai Party deputy spokesman Sunisa Lertpakawat criticised the Democrat for considering the government's efforts to bring about peace in the South as politically motivated.
She urged the opposition to refrain from using security issues as a political tactic to sabotage the government.
She said the Democrats should support peace efforts and give the government cooperation to stop the insurgency in the South.
Sunisa said Malaysia wanted to help the Thai government solve the on-going insurgency because both countries would enjoy mutual benefits from development if there were no more killings in the southern border provinces.
She said the peace talks have just started so it was not possible that the violence would end overnight.