World Bulletin / News Desk
Thailand is to start peace talks with Muslim insurgent groups operating in the south, a senior security official said on Wednesday.
Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces were part of a Malay Muslim sultanate until occupied by Buddhist Thailand a century ago, and pro-independence moves have arised ever since.
"This is the first step. The start of a peace dialogue with representatives from Muslim rebel groups," Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), told Reuters by phone from Kuala Lumpur.
An agreement on preliminary discussions is to be signed on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur ahead of a meeting between Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak. The two are due to hold a joint news conference.
Malaysia, which helped broker a peace deal between the Philippine government and Muslim groups in October, appears to have brought the Muslim groups to the table.
Before leaving for Malaysia, Paradorn had said Thailand would seek Malaysia's help to determine which groups were operating in Muslim provinces and then facilitate talks with the groups.
"There has been dialogue with insurgent groups on and off for many months but not as often as we would like," he said.
The NSC brings together government ministers and officials charged with coordinating security with the military.
Local Muslims largely oppose the presence of tens of thousands of police, soldiers and state-armed Buddhist guards in the rubber-rich region and many suspect the authorities of carrying out extrajudicial killings.
More than 4,000 people have been killed since a decades-old pro-freedom movement in 2004 in the mainly Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, which border Malaysia.Last Mod: 27 Şubat 2013, 14:42