By Hadi Azmi and Mariyam Ahmad
Malaysia will host the first face-to-face talks in nearly two years between Thailand and rebels in southern BRN next month, sources from both sides said on Thursday about face-to-face talks that were disrupted by the pandemic. COVID-19.
High-level talks negotiated by Malaysia are expected to resume after an upsurge in clashes in late 2021 between Thai government forces and suspected rebels of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the most powerful separatist group in Thailand’s Muslim-majority Deep South.
“We will resume in January if all goes well,” a source on the Malaysian side familiar with the peace talks but who requested anonymity told BenarNews.
“It will be a face to face discussion in Kuala Lumpur,” said the source who was not authorized to speak to the media.
Thai officials and BRN representatives last met virtually in February 2021, and the latest face-to-face discussions – two sets of them – took place in Kuala Lumpur in March 2020, around time of the first full-fledged outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. in Malaysia.
General Wanlop Rugsanao, Thailand’s chief negotiator, did not immediately respond to calls from BenarNews for comment on Thursday.
The provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala – along with four districts of Songkhla province – make up the deep south of Thailand, a predominantly Muslim and Malay region on the border with Malaysia.
A leader of a coordination group of 32 civil society organizations in the Deep South, however, said Thailand and the BRN would likely meet in the Malaysian capital in the coming weeks.
“From what insiders have told us, there will be a meeting of the Thailand Peace Panel and the BRN in Kuala Lumpur, possibly on January 11,” Ruckchart Suwan told BenarNews by phone on Thursday, but refused to cite his sources.
Meanwhile, the commander of the Thai 4th Armye The region, which covers the Great South, and officials from ISOC-4, the regional operations command, are involved at an “operational and technical level” to discuss a possible peaceful solution to the conflict with the private sector and insurgents in the country, ISOC officials told BenarNews without going into details.
More than 7,000 people have been killed in the southern border region since the BRN and other armed separatist groups renewed their decades-old insurgency against predominantly Buddhist Thailand 17 years ago.
Increase in attacks since September
Ruckchart, who is based in Yala, went to Parliament on Thursday to join an opposition MP and propose that a House committee be set up to “monitor the progress of existing peace talks.”
A “big budget has been spent on many discussions and there is a need to have a committee to oversee the process,” Ruckchart said.
Thailand’s legislature could include the proposal for consideration in the next session in early 2022, opposition lawmaker Kamolsak Leewamoh told parliament.
A month after the latest face-to-face discussions between a Thai official and representatives of the BRN, the rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire in April 2020 to allow Thai health workers to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the ceasefire – which was never officially declared over – a few sporadic attacks, blamed on the insurgents, took place earlier this year.
Last September, a noticeable increase in violence began after a BRN-related message posted on Facebook urging fighters to “resume self-defense operations” because security forces were allegedly carrying out attacks. “Summary executions despite difficulties related to COVID”.
Later that month, three members of the government and a suspected insurgent were killed in a shootout in Narathiwat, government officials said.
In October, soldiers said they flushed out insurgents who had locked themselves for 17 days in a swamp in Narathiwat. Four government security personnel and six suspected rebels were killed in the operation, officials said.
Since then and after BRN announced its support for Songhkla residents protesting an industrial project in Chana district, four bombings have hit Thailand’s deep south.
The latest attack, on December 13, targeted a passenger train in Pattani, injuring three people. There were no casualties in the three previous attacks.