New Thai government must continue peace talks with insurgents

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s new government must continue to work with insurgents in the south of the country to ensure peace, a senior Thai official involved in the talks said on Friday.

An alliance led by the progressive Move Forward party, which won this month’s general election, says it will prioritize peace-building in the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Malay southern provinces, which have been at odds for decades.

Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh, head of Thailand’s Peace Dialogue Body, said the next government must “maintain the continuity and momentum of talks,” which resumed last year after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“The process must definitely go ahead,” he said, adding that his team will work with all stakeholders to ensure continuity of talks until a new government is formed.

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The main insurgent group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), which is demanding independence from Thailand and is taking part in the talks, did not respond to a request for comment.

The region borders Malaysia and was part of the independent Malay Sultanate of Patani before being annexed by Thailand in 1909 under a treaty with Britain.

The latest phase of the conflict erupted in 2004 and more than 7,300 people have been killed since then, according to Deep South Watch, a group that monitors the violence.

Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat said under his leadership the peace process will be led by civilians, not the military, and will respect human rights, coexistence in a multicultural society and greater public participation.

Analysts say a Move Forward-led government could encourage greater public and international community participation.

“The peace talks are part of a larger negotiation between the Thai state and the people of Patani,” said security analyst Don Pathan, using the traditional name of the border region.

“The challenge is to find the conditions for all sides to live together peacefully.”

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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