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Zamzamin hopes peace talks in South will continue

A Malaysian official working to facilitate the peace dialogue between Thailand and Muslim separatists said yesterday that he hoped that a new Thai government would go ahead with the talks and that Malaysia was ready to help if required.

The next session of talks, which has yet to be set up, should be attended by three separatist groups, namely the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) and the Barisan Islam Pembebasan Patani.

Malaysia also reportedly wants NGO representatives, students and unrest-affected Buddhists to participate in the peace dialogue.

The facilitator Ahmad Zamzamin Hashim, also known as Datuk Zamzamin, told the media yesterday that the peace dialogue was a brave move and that it helped bring all sides on to the same page.

Since various issues and misunderstandings were solved in the talks previously, misunderstandings triggered by attacks - such as the February 3 fatal shooting of three Muslim boys in Narathiwat - would have been avoided if talks were ongoing, he said.

Though the dialogue, which has so far seen four official sessions, was still in its early stages and had to be indefinitely postponed due to the ongoing political conflict in Thailand, Zamzamin said Malaysia remained positive that it would resume in the near future. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to organise a peace dialogue in February last year.

He added that though Malaysian PM Najib Razak gave importance to his country's role in facilitating continuous talks, the role Kuala Lumpur played was really up to the Thai government, he said.

The Issara News Agency quoted Zamzamin as saying that Malaysia was sincere in helping resolve the unrest in Thailand's deep South because it would also benefit from peace in the region. He explained that people often fled to Malaysia, which posed more problems.

Zamzamin told Issara News Agency that the decision to replace negotiation team leader Hassan Taib with someone else was up to BRN and that he had not heard about the group's withdrawal from the dialogue.

He said that BRN officials had told him that they would attend the talks, adding that if the BRN did not officially withdraw from the talks then nothing will have changed because it can't be absent especially since it signed the MoU that started these talks.

Zamzamin is scheduled to speak to members of the Malaysian press on Monday before heading to Chiang Mai to talk with Thai media the following day. During his week in Thailand, Zamzamin will also attend a seminar on the peace dialogue at the Prince of Songkla University in Pattani.


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