Next Thai govt eyes formal peace talks in South, review of emergency decree

The South of Thailand has been wracked with violence for nearly 20 years, since an Army barrack was attacked, and firearms stolen on January 4, 2004.

The Nation

The Nation



June 20, 2023

BANGKOK – The next Move Forward-led government will review the emergency rule and other special mechanisms implemented to contain violence in the deep South. It will also hold formal peace talks with a group that has small insurgent groups under its umbrella.
These ambitious measures were discussed at the second meeting of the panel in charge of preparing measures for the next coalition government to handle the southern insurgency, a Move Forward MP-elect said.

The panel held its second meeting at Prachachart Party’s head office on Monday. Its first meeting was held at the Move Forward headquarters last week.

The meeting on Monday was chaired by Prachachart secretary-general Thawee Sodsong. Also attending were representatives of the eight coalition partners, including Move Forward’s Ramadon Panjor, Pheu Thai’s Paradorn Pattanathabutr, Fair Party secretary-general Kannawe Suebsaeng and Thai Sang Thai’s Chavalit Wichayasut.

Ramadon said the meeting had discussed urgent steps that should be taken within 100 days of the Move Forward-led coalition government and what should be done during the government’s four-year term.

The South of Thailand has been wracked with violence for nearly 20 years, since an Army barrack was attacked, and firearms stolen on January 4, 2004.

Ramadon said the insurgency should be dealt with in the same way communism was dealt with after 15 years of struggle from 1965 to 1980. The government had issued an order absolving all former communist insurgents.

He said that the panel also looked into other ways of dealing with the insurgency, including changing the format of the informal peace talks between the government and the umbrella group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

Ramadon said the panel agreed to turn the talks into a formal peace dialogue to show that the government is serious about achieving peace in the South.

A formal peace dialogue will also show to the international community that the next government is serious about building peace in the Muslim-dominated deep South, he added.

“It will also prove that the next civilian government has a different approach when it comes to dealing with the southern situation,” Ramadon said.

The outgoing government had decided against holding formal peace talks with insurgents because it feared that doing so would be tantamount to their recognition globally.

He added that the meeting also reviewed the state of emergency and other special laws implemented to contain the violence in the South.

“The panel believes it is time to stop implementing these special mechanisms to ensure the public’s safety,” Ramadon said.

He added that the next government may decide in its first three months of office on whether it should extend the emergency decree in Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and four districts of Songkhla.

However, he said, the working panel will still have to listen to the opinions of affected people, including the Buddhist community in the South.

The new government may also consider the status of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, which oversees the administration of the deep South.

“The working panel is still discussing these issues,” Ramadon added.

He added that the next government would consider public safety and the right of expression before it makes a final decision on measures for the deep South.

Ramadon also dismissed allegations that Move Forward supports the idea of the deep South separating into an independent state, saying this cannot be done under the Thai Constitution.

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