Thailand’s authorities seems decided to sideline negotiators who’ve represented separatist teams in Thai Deep South peace talks since 2015, the director of a think-tank primarily based within the troubled border area informed BenarNews.
In the meantime members of MARA Patani, a panel of insurgent factions that has engaged within the Malaysia-brokered talks for the previous 5 years, stated they might not take part in or had not but been invited to direct negotiations introduced final month between Bangkok and BRN, essentially the most highly effective of the southern rebel teams.
“It’s clear that the federal government intends to downgrade MARA Patani, judging from Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh, the peace talks chief, who stated that the Thai delegation desires to speak to essentially the most influential group, who has clear roles on the bottom, first, earlier than it will speak to different teams,” stated Professor Srisompob Jitpiromsri, who directs the think-tank often known as Deep South Watch.
Wanlop and Anas Abdulrahman (often known as Hipni Mareh), a frontrunner of the BRN, or Barisan Revolusi Nasional (Nationwide Revolutionary Entrance), introduced throughout a joint press convention in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 21 that the 2 sides had been launching their first official direct talks in years, and which might even be facilitated by Malaysia.
Final week, Wanlop informed a information convention in Bangkok that Thailand wished to “have bilateral talks with the BRN,” including, “we wish to work with essentially the most influential group first and different teams might be part of.”
BRN holds seats on the MARA panel however, in line with specialists, the umbrella physique might not have management of BRN fighters within the discipline. That actuality, they are saying, pushed Wanlop to pursue contact with the insurgent group’s de facto navy leaders by way of Abdul Rahim Noor, the Malaysian facilitator of the peace course of. Till the brand new talks had been introduced in January, hardcore BRN leaders had stayed away from the MARA-led negotiations with Thailand.
Srisompob described the brand new set of talks as a constructive improvement in years-long efforts aimed toward settling the battle within the primarily Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South. Greater than 7,000 individuals have been killed in violence throughout the area because the insurgency re-ignited in 2004.
However, Srisompob cautioned, “I don’t understand how far it will probably go. We’ve got to attend and see.”
“Most significantly, there should be inside agreements inside every of the 2 sides,” the analyst informed BenarNews. “There are some variations inside the insurgent teams, and they should kind [these] out amongst themselves moreover speaking to the federal government.”
“On the federal government’s facet, it will need to have inside talks to have a unified stance,” he added.
The subsequent assembly with BRN would happen in early March, Wanlop informed reporters within the Thai capital on Jan. 31.
In accordance with Sukree Hari, one in all three BRN members who sit on MARA Patani, the subsequent spherical of direct talks between Thailand and BRN will occur on March 2, however no BRN representatives on MARA have been invited to take part.
“Solely the BRN, led by Mr. Anas, might be attending and BRN [members of] MARA Patani is not going to be concerned,” Sukree informed BenarNews.
Kasturi Mahkota, the chief of the Patani United Liberation Group (PULO) insurgent group, who additionally sits on MARA Patani, stated he was hopeful that the panel can be represented within the new peace talks.
“Unsure but,” he informed BenarNews when he requested whether or not MARA would take part. “[W]e depart it to the BRN. If the BRN may organize it, Insha’Allah, we might be collectively. All of the administration is within the fingers of BRN.”
Kasturi stated he anticipated that the brand new talks “might be an inclusive course of,” indicating BRN had given assurances that “this spherical of peace talks would come with all events.”
At Friday’s information convention, Gen. Wanlop, Thailand’s nationwide safety chief who was appointed because the chief peace negotiator with southern rebels in September 2019, gave reporters his impressions about his introductory assembly with Anas in Kuala Lumpur.
“We’re fairly assured that he’s the appropriate BRN consultant to speak to us,” Wanlop stated.
Srisompob, the analyst, described Anas as being excessive up in BRN, overseas educated and a former instructor at a Muslim faculty within the Deep South.
“He has [played] a key position within the BRN for a few years. The Thai authorities’s intelligence circle is aware of him nicely that he’s a key individual. As he got here out to speak, it’s assured that he really represents the BRN,” Srisompob stated.
Nonetheless a former BRN fighter residing in Yala, one of many provinces within the conflict-torn southern border area, questioned whether or not Anas really was a prime chief of the insurgent group or can be the correct individual to guide it within the new talks.
Jeh Ku, the ex-rebel, even advised that Anas is likely to be too near the Thai authorities.
“Ustaz Hipni is not any stranger to the Thai authorities. He has had shut contact with the Thai authorities. The federal government merely desires a brand new face to return to the desk, and there he comes,” he informed BenarNews, referring to Anas by his alias.
Efforts by BenarNews to contact Anas for this report failed.
“The BRN operatives on the bottom are ready to see what the Thai authorities will do, whereas they’ve the one aim, Merdeka, and it by no means adjustments,” Jeh Ku stated, utilizing the Malay phrase for independence.