Thai talks with insurgents hit an impasse

VIOLENCE CONTINUES: Thai security personnel inspecting the aftermath of a bomb attack by suspected militants in Yala province, south of Bangkok, last Saturday. Eight soldiers were killed.


    Jul 02, 2013

    Thai talks with insurgents hit an impasse

    THE Malaysian-brokered peace talks between the Thai government and insurgents from the country's embattled southern region have hit a brick wall, with unreasonable demands by the militants cited as a key factor.

    "They are making demands knowing the Thai government can never grant them," said Mr Don Pathan, a security analyst based in Yala province in southern Thailand.

    In a phone interview with The Star, he said the demands of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Coordinate (BRN-C), which is in talks with Bangkok, included dropping the hunt for suspected militants and the granting of diplomatic immunity to the negotiators.

    "Politically and legally speaking, it's impossible," he said.

    According to Mr Pathan, the BRN-C is one of the long-standing Malay-Muslim separatist organisations that surfaced in the late 1960s to take up arms against the Thai state.

    He pointed out that Mr Hassan Taib, the BRN-C "liaison officer" at the talks, was not even in the inner circle of the insurgent group that emerged in the 2000s.

    "He doesn't have command and control on the ground. The BRN-C is using him to antagonise the Thai government and see their reaction," said Mr Pathan.

    In February, the Yingluck Shinawatra government and BRN-C signed a deal in Kuala Lumpur to hold talks with one another. It was a historic deal as it was the first time Bangkok had agreed to meet the militants to end the nearly decade-long conflict.

    They have held several rounds of talks, the latest being on June 13 in Kuala Lumpur. However, violence is still going on despite the talks.

    Dr Panitan Wattanayagon, a Chulalongkorn University security expert, said that both sides had to work on the planning and preparation stage first.

    He said both sides were not even at the negotiation stage, but had already come up with their own position and demands.

    "It makes the process more complicated. The ground rules should be set for negotiations first.

    "A hard position will be met by an even-harder position. This is not good in the long run," said Dr Panitan in an e-mail message to The Star.