Thailand’s military government has announced peace talks can go ahead with Muslim separatists in the far south of the country but insisted they observe a ceasefire.
Separatists from the far south Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat are suspected of involvement in a string of bombings last month in several tourist towns that killed four people and wounded dozens.
A decades-old insurgency in the deep south of predominately Buddhist Thailand flared in 2004 and more than 6,500 people have been killed since then, according to the independent monitoring group Deep South Watch.
Talks between the government and insurgents began in 2013 when Yingluck Shinawatra was prime minister of a civilian government but have stalled since the military threw her out of office in 2014.
The Thai defence minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, said negotiations would restart on Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
General Aksara Kerdphol, the Thai government’s lead negotiator, said the rebels had to show good faith by ending violence.
I have been instructed to tell the groups that there must be a peaceful situation on the ground before we are willing to sign any document, he said.
Malaysia’s Bernama state news agency said Thai officials would meet representatives of the Mara Pattani separatist umbrella group.
Bangkok-based analyst Anthony Davis, at security consulting firm IHS-Jane’s, said a ceasefire was unlikely as the main group behind the violence, Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), had been left out of the talks.
BRN has made it entirely clear that they reject the current process of peace talks between Bangkok and the group of small factions-in-exile in Malaysia called Mara Pattani, he said.
The three ethnic-Malay majority provinces were part of a Malay sultanate before being annexed by Thailand more than a century ago.
The 11-12 August bombings in several towns including Hua Hin, Surat Thai and on Phuket island spread alarm in a tourist industry that had been largely spared a spillover of violence from the insurgency.
Authorities at first dismissed any connection between the bombs and the separatists and instead blamed the military government’s mainstream political opponents.
The attacks came days after voters approved a military-drafted constitution in a national referendum. The charter was roundly opposed in the far south.
News Source TheGuardianNews