Jul 30, 2013

    Thai rebels wish me well

    Thailand's National Security Council chief, Lieutenant-General Paradorn Pattanathabutr, talks to The Nation about the decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency in Thailand's south.

    He leads the Thai government's delegation in peace talks with the insurgents, which began in March.

    Has there been a visible reduction in violence during Ramadan?

    There have been four insurgency- related incidents (as of last Tuesday). The rest had to do with drugs and local political conflict.

    This is actually a normal pattern of events. Security officials tend to sway towards insurgency as the motive, so that they can close the case (quickly). We have to "improve" this mindset.

    How can you improve the way violent incidents are dealt with?

    The Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre appointed a joint security panel to promote peace during Ramadan this year.

    The panel asked the militant group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), via a Malaysian peace facilitator, if it was responsible for the incidents in question.

    It either accepts responsibility for the incidents or reports that groups opposed to the peace process were responsible for the incidents. We use this approach, as jointly agreed in peace negotiations, to find out who is responsible.

    Are you sure that (BRN negotiator) Hassan Taib is the leader of the BRN?

    Mr Hassan is the ideological leader. If he had the ability to link every group, our burden would be reduced. He can talk to most of them, but some people or local leaders are still a problem.

    What is the final outcome of the peace dialogue?

    Our last hope to end the insurgency is an independent administration, but we must adhere to our Constitution.

    Surveys done locally indicated that people do not support separatism, so the BRN has to alter its model of independence. It has five to six models, but details of these have not been revealed.

    Conservative BRN members believe they cannot be independent from Thailand, as they must depend on both Thailand and Malaysia, so they think having a special administrative zone would be better.

    However, younger generations of BRN members believe that they can be totally independent.

    The difficulty is to make the Thai people understand, because we would have to pass it (a special administrative zone) into law.

    Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has played a big role in bringing about this peace dialogue.

    Did he have any special model?

    His way is to live together peacefully.

    What do you think is the recipe for success in this area?

    The leader of the peace talks must be open-minded, like an ocean that can take both good and bad water.

    How do you describe the relations (between the Thai government and) the BRN, and have you gained more trust in them?

    They are good. (The BRN) wish me longevity so that the peace dialogue can continue.

    You mean in terms of age or your current position?

    (Laughing) Both. I believe Mr Hassan is not cheating us. It depends on whether he is in control. Right now, we are at the mountaintop, but we have not yet crossed it.