June 14, 2013 00:00
By Pakorn Puengnetr
BRN should pay heed to public opinion polls, NSC chief advises
The third round of peace talks with Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) commenced in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, with the 10-strong Thai team including Pattani Governor Pramuk Lamul for the first time and newly appointed Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) deputy chief for religion Maroning Salaeming joining in as interpreter.
The talks are said to be taking place at an undisclosed location, possibly a Malaysian Special Branch Police safe house in the capital.
Ahead of the meeting, National Security Council (NSC) chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr said he would table the results of the latest public forum and opinion poll, which showed that people wanted the violence to cease. He said he would use this to urge the BRN to try and stop attacks in the upcoming month of Ramadan.
As for the BRN’s five-point demand, Paradorn said there were different opinions in the region, hence the team would first urge the other side to cooperate in terms of cutting down violence. He said he needed “concrete outcomes” first.
“Our agenda is to reduce violence within a particular timeframe or by area. Today we must get clear answers on facts [behind the recent spike in violence],” Paradorn said, adding that Thailand would seek to set up a joint committee to prove who is behind the attacks.
The NSC chief said the issue of marking the South as a special administration zone was unlikely to come up in this round of talks as the focus is on cutting down violence.
SBPAC chief Thawee Sodsong, meanwhile, said he planned to get separatists to help tackle drug-trafficking problems.
The Thai team also included Defence deputy permanent secretary Nipat Thonglek, Special Branch Police chief Pol Lt-General Saritchai Anekwiang, 4th Army Region chief-of-staff Maj-General Charin Amornkaew, Internal Security Operations Command Region 5 deputy director Maj-General Nakrob Boonbuathong, Defence special adviser General Samret Srirai, director of Deep South Watch Srisompop Jitpiromsri, and SBPAC advisory board chairman Aziz Benhawan.
The BRN team, led by Hassan Taib, remained the same, and Dato Samsamin, former director of Malaysia’s intelligence agency, served as facilitator.
Srisompop said an opinion poll was conducted on 2,000 people (80 per cent Muslim and 20 per cent Buddhist) in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla’s four districts from June 9-11 about the dialogue and its demands. Despite the almost-daily violence in the region, he said 73 per cent of the respondents said they had more confidence in the talks, compared to 67.17 per cent in the March poll.
Srisompop said the rising confidence came from better communication with the public as well as the forums and campaigns organised by the Civil Society Sector.
Despite the dialogue’s previous two rounds, the unrest in the deep South has continued, hence raising the question as to whether BRN leaders could indeed control the militants that are on the field.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said if this round of talks did not yield any results then he would step in, which he says Paradorn has agreed to.