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Published: Monday July 1, 2013 MYT 7:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday July 1, 2013 MYT 1:18:41 PM

Exclusive: Southern Thai peace talks brokered by Malaysia hit a dead end

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian-brokered peace deal between the Thai government and insurgents from the country’s embattled southern region has 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 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 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 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 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 talks, the latest being on June 13 in Kuala Lumpur. However, the violence is still going on despite the talks. 

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 yet, 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," Panitan told The Star.

He also said the peace process could not be achieved without Malaysia, which should be non-partisan.

Since 2004, violence in Thailand's three southern-most provinces – Yala, Patani and Narathiwat has resulted in more than 5300 people killed.

The three Muslim-dominated provinces were once part of a Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909.

On Saturday, suspected Muslim rebels killed eight soldiers in a roadside bomb attack after Bangkok rejected demands for a ceasefire during Ramadan starting next month.

According to Reuters, the 60-kg bomb exploded as the soldiers were travelling in a military truck along a village road in Yala.

Another two soldiers were wounded and two villagers on a motorcycle behind the truck were also hurt, police said.

Tags / Keywords: Thailand violence, Barisan Revolusi Nasional Coordinate, BRN-C, Muslim rebels, peace deal, peace talks

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