Southern peace dialogue offers “a light at the end of the tunnel”
The two-day peace dialogue, aimed at ending the conflict in southern Thailand, wrapped up this afternoon (Wednesday) on an upbeat note, with the Thai chief negotiator describing it as a step closer to seeing “a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gen Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, the Malaysian facilitator for the peace talks, said the meeting gave rise to hope for peace in the strife-torn border region.
Speaking at a news conference at the end of the talks, held at a hotel in the Malaysian capital, he said representatives of the Thai government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) will continue to talk at technical levels, to develop an action plan in accordance with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Peace Plan, upon which the two sides have agreed.
The plan serves as a two-year roadmap for representatives of the Thai government and the separatist group in their negotiations.
“The roadmap shows there is hope for peace for the Pattani community on Thailand’s border and there is an opportunity to end the conflict,” said the former chief of the Malaysian armed forces, who was recently appointed as the new facilitator for the peace talks.
Gen Wallop Raksanoh, chief of the Thai delegation, said both sides are committed to implementing the general principles of the peace plan, which call for a cessation of violence, public consultation and political solutions.
He said the latest round of talks helped to build more trust between the two sides, who demonstrated their determination to find solutions to the conflicts during the meeting.
“We are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully we will be out of the tunnel in two years,” Gen Wallop told Thai PBS in an interview.
When asked whether other rebel groups will be included in future peace talks, Gen Wallop said there was discussion about how the peace process can be made more inclusive.