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Peace talks over past year in progress : academic

There have been positive outcomes in an ongoing dialogue between security authorities and insurgents in the far South, with peace still anticipated as the ultimate goal. That was the assessment on the first year since the talks began, according to a key activist involved in the process.

In the future rounds of talks, there will be more groups that are active in the insurgency taking part in addition to the umbrella body Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN). This would make it more likely that the process is supported and can yield fruit, according to Asst Prof Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a lecturer at Prince of Songkla University, who heads its Deep South Watch (DSW) centre.

The local and national media have also played important parts in promoting the peace and encouraging initial reconciliation between Buddhist and Muslim locals, while stimulating their interest in boosting the role of communities in further building harmony, he said. Mainstream and alternative media had also offered various solutions to the lasting peace, he added.

Among other signs of positive outcomes was a drop in attacks on so-called "soft targets", which means defenceless civilians, as well as vehicular bomb attacks, or violent bomb attacks in urban areas, he said.

Insurgents had also decreased their attacks in the initial phase during the Ramadan truce last year, although attacks became frequent later on, he said.

There had also been talks outside of the formal dialogue, with extra rounds aside from the three rounds of formal talks, he said. Apart from BRN, Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), and Barisan Islam Pembebasan Pattani (BIPP) had taken part in informal talks.

Thai authorities and insurgents had held talks on three occasions, through mediation by Malaysian authorities. However, a fourth round has not been scheduled yet, because of the caretaker status of the administration led by Yingluck Shinawatra, which is blocked from doing this by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, cloth banners were hung at various locations in Yala and Narathiwat, probably by insurgents, as they had messages critical of Thai authorities. Fake bombs were found and dealt with at some of those locations.

Police said later the incidents were symbolic, to mark one year of the talks.


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