Deep South peace talks to resume in two weeks
After completion of a 2-day visit to Thailand’s Deep South region, the Malaysian facilitator for peace talks between the Thai government and Mara Patani, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim bin Mohammad Noor, 75, gave his first interview to Thai PBS saying he will propose a new round of talks to take place in the next two weeks in Penang, Malaysia.
In February this year, Mara Patani declined to hold talks with the Thai side, saying that they would wait until the new government is installed.
Mr. Rahim said he was not aware of the reason why former Mara Patani chief negotiator, Sukree Hari, withdrew from the negotiations in May this year and has no idea who is going to take over the job. He expressed hope, however, that all parties will commit to continuing with the talks, adding that the talks will not stall even though Thailand will have a new government and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has only one year left in office.
“I think, I might be wrong, but I think there is no change in the Thai government’s decision to talk for peace,” said Mr. Rahim.
Mr. Rahim admitted that the talks will not be as easy as his successful talks with the former Malayan Communist Party in 1989, due to their complexity and the loss of life and property resulting from the insurgency, let alone the scars left on the families and suspects who have been captured and detained.
The chief facilitator, Malaysia’s former police chief, made his first visit to the region, since he was appointed in August last year, on 12th-13th June. He held discussions on the insurgency and the framework for the resumption of peace talks with insurgent groups and Lt-Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, commander of Thailand’s Fourth Army Region, which has jurisdiction over security affairs in southern Thailand.
He also met with other government officials, community and religious leaders, members of civic groups and lecturers at Prince of Songkhla University’s Pattani campus.
Mr. Rahim said he will gather all the information from the visit and report to the Malaysian Prime Minister to map out a future peace talk framework. As for the call for a safe zone to be identified in designated areas, Mr. Rahim said that the negotiations have not yet reached that point.