New Thai govt must continue peace talks with insurgents - Thai official

·2-min read

By Panu Wongcha-um

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's new government must continue engaging with insurgents in the country's south to ensure peace, a top 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 prioritise peace-building in the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Malay southern provinces, where conflict has flared on and off for decades.

General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, head of Thailand's Peace Dialogue Panel said the next government must "maintain continuity and momentum of the talks", which resumed last year after a two-year suspension due to the pandemic.

"The process must continue no matter what," he said adding that his team will work with all stakeholders to ensure continuity of the talks until a new government is formed.

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

The region shares a border with Malaysia and was part of an independent Malay sultanate, Patani, before it was annexed by Thailand in 1909 as part of a treaty with Britain.

The most recent phase of 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 has said under his leadership, the peace process will be led by civilians rather than the military, and will take into account human rights, coexistence in a multicultural society and greater public participation.

Analysts say a Move Forward-led government could foster more participation from the public and the international community.

"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 come up and identify what are the terms for peaceful co-existence between all sides."

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