World Bulletin/News Desk
Leaders of a Muslim group in southern Thailand said they will press for an independent state and made other demands during the second round of peace talks, which started in Malaysia on Monday.
Resistance to Bangkok's Buddhist rule has existed for decades but flared up in 2004.
The government made no comment on the Barisan Revolusi Nasional's (BRN) message - aired on social networking website YouTube on Sunday - but officials, who dismiss any notion of independence or regional autonomy, are certain to reject the demands.
In the clip, Hassan Taib, one of the BRN leaders, said running "our own government in the fairest way" in the region was one of the group's objectives.
Another leader, Abdulkarim Khalib, demanded that Thailand drop all charges against Muslim fighters and unconditionally release all detainees. The BRN statement pledged to continue its actions "until the demise of colonialism".
The video message, translated from Malay by the Bangkok Post, demanded that Thailand accept Malaysia as a “mediator,” rather than a “facilitator.”
It also said representatives of the Association of South-East Asian Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference must be observers, and that all rebel prisoners be released unconditionally.
The BRN also demanded to be recognized by Thailand as a liberation movement.
“The struggle of the BRN can lead to peace and justice, to the establishment of a state, God willing,” Hassan Taib said.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the clip left unchanged the Thai government's stand that the fighters had broken the law.
"The insurgents are all Thai people and we won't accept them as anything else," told reporters in Bangkok. "They are Thais who broke the nation's law and are answerable to that."
The southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat were once part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Buddhist Thailand in 1909. About 80 percent of residents are Malay-speaking Muslims, while most of Thailand is populated by Thai-speaking Buddhists.
Thailand is the world's No. 1 rubber producer and most of it is grown in the south.Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2013, 17:31