If the emergency decree is lifted in some districts in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani and replaced with the national security act, the atmosphere in the region would improve and become more conducive to problem-solving,” said Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin today.
He was speaking after meeting with former Malaysian chief of defence forces, General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, the chief facilitator of the peace negotiations between the Thai government and Barisan Nasional Revolusi (BRN) rebel groups, for discussions about the framework for the peace talks.
“The meeting was intended to build better understanding between Thai and Malaysian authorities involved in the peace negotiations.”
The discussion held in Bangkok however did not include a timeline for when negotiations between the government and BRN representatives will resume, but was about making preparations for when there is a clear sign of a resumption of the talks.
With Malaysia acting as the facilitator, peace talks were completely suspended early last year, when BRN representatives announced that they would not take part in peace talks until a new government was established following Thailand’s May general election.
Meanwhile, acting National Security Council Secretary-General Chatchai Bangchuad, in his capacity as the government’s chief negotiator, said that the Malaysian former defence chief offered an assurance that Malaysia will continue to facilitate the peace negotiations.
He expects peace talks to resume in February and this would be in line with a revised peace plan, which is yet to be approved by the parties in the conflict, which will reduce violence and confrontation in the restive region. It would also pave the way for public fora to be held to gauge the views of all stakeholders in the search for peaceful political solution.
Regarding the legal action taken against some locals for wearing Malay dress by the army, Chatchai said that it was a misunderstanding on the part of the military, because there is no law prohibiting people in the Deep South from wearing clothing that reflects their culture and identity.
Lt-Gen Santi Sakuntanark, commander of the 4th Army Region, also said today that the report that the military took action against some activists for wearing Malay outfits was a misunderstanding.
In fact, he said that the action was taken against nine activists for allegedly inciting Thai Malay youth, during a demonstration in Sai Buri district of Pattani in May last year, to rise up and fight for the independence of a Patani state. The BRN separatist flag was also displayed during the rally, he added.
The nine activists reported to Sai Buri district police yesterday, to acknowledge the charges of instigating unrest and criminal association.