World Bulletin / News Desk
Thai authorities and insurgents could be inching towards talks after nine years of conflict and the loss of more than 5,000 lives in Muslim-dominated southern provinces bordering Malaysia.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is meeting her Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday and may seek his help to make contact with Muslim groups.
"There are insurgent groups operating within Malaysia and Thailand that want to talk to the Thai government," Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council of Thailand (NSC), told Reuters.
"We want Malaysia to facilitate these talks."
The NSC brings together government ministers and officials charged with coordinating security matters with the military. In a 2012 paper it acknowledged a political dimension to the conflict and proposed dialogue with the insurgents, but the military, which has a big presence in the south, is lukewarm.
"The military has had regular contact with Malaysia. We are not involved with the meeting on Thursday, because this is a government initiative," Udomchai Thammasarorat, commander of the Fourth Army in southern Thailand, told Reuters.
"Our military strategy is clear and we are making good progress towards resolving the conflict," he said.
Independent analysts see little evidence that the
Yingluck has said she would discuss the southern unrest in Malaysia but government officials are not using the term "peace talks" and some senior ministers are opposed to such an idea.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobumrung ruled out negotiations with the insurgents, saying that "if insurgent groups come to us with conditions, we will not accept them".
The provinces were once part of an independent Malay sultanate before being annexed by Thailand in 1909.
Resistance to Buddhist rule from Bangkok has existed for decades.Last Mod: 26 Şubat 2013, 14:23