Thai government wants to resume peace negotiations with rebels

Oct. 29, 2013 at 2:50 PM
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BANGKOK, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The Thai government has indicated it wants to resume peace talks with rebels in the south of the country.

Fighting, which has been going on since 2004 between government forces and rebels, has claimed at least 5,300 lives in the Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, an area that borders Malaysia.

Peace talks began in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in March between the Thai government and the rebel Barisan Revolusi Nasional -- National Revolutionary Front -- and several other insurgent groups. But the government suspended talks previously this month to avoid meeting with the BRN on the anniversary of the Tak Bai killings in Narathiwat on Oct. 25, 2004.

Lt. Gen. Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council, said the government has told the Malaysian facilitator and the BRN it is ready to resume talks next month, the Bangkok Post reported.

Paradorn, who heads the Thai delegation, said the security council was concerned the pro-independence BRN rebels would cite the Tak Bai event as a lever to demand more concessions from the government.

Rebels usually mark the day that security forces in Tak Bai, a town of about 17,000 on the border with Malaysia, opened fire on a demonstration of about 1,500 people.

The demonstrators had been protesting the detention of six men when police responded with tear gas and water cannons and later gunfire that killed seven people in the crowd. Police then crowded dozens of detainees into trucks for transport to a military camp in Pattani province. During the 5-hour drive 78 detainees died of suffocation or organ collapse.

Rebels retaliated by beheading a Buddhist deputy police chief in Narathiwat province.

BRN demands include the release of all BRN detainees in the southern provinces and to allow outside groups to observe the peace process in Malaysia. The BRN also wants security forces withdrawn from Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces.

The provinces remain under emergency law in an attempt by police, the military and the paramilitary Royal Thai Rangers to stem violence against Buddhist monks, school teachers and village officials as well as security forces.

Paradorn's comment came after three police bomb-disposal experts were killed Monday morning when insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in Narathiwat, The Nation reported. The bomb exploded while the three officers were defusing the device, newspaper said.

While the officers were walking toward the objects, police believe insurgents hiding nearby used a mobile phone to detonate the bomb.

Police also found another another home-made bomb inside gas cylinders, but successfully detonated it in a controlled explosion.

BRN rebels favor motorcycle drive-by shooting for attacking civilians. Last week in Narathiwat, two men were shot dead and a woman critically injured in two drive-by shootings, the Post reported. In June, a 24-year-old school teacher in Yala was shot while driving her motorcycle.

Amnesty International has called for the rebels to stop their fight against the authorities and soft-target civilians. Amnesty's 64-page report "Unlawful Killings in Thailand's Southern Insurgency," published in September 2011, was based on extensive interviews with victims of violence in Thailand's southernmost provinces.

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