Southern Thailand peace talks back on track with new guidelines

Southern Thailand peace talks back on track with new guidelines
Officials inspect the site where a bomb targeting soldiers was detonated earlier yesterday in Pattani.

The resumption follows the military seizure of power in May last year.

Proceedings began with three guideline steps issued formally at a National Security Council meeting yesterday.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said the meeting acknowledged and accepted that the peace efforts needed to continue under a new set of guidelines as the country prepares for full implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of the year.

The next step is the ratification of agreements after all sides, including both new and existing insurgent groups, reached an understanding that violence will not continue.

The third and final step is working out a road map on how to maintain peace while enforcing justice through legal processes. Substantial development would be based on cultural and religious diversities.

Prayut said there would be time frames, policies and progress along with the road map, with details to be worked out by a committee.

The peace efforts would not be handled in a way that puts pressure on the military and security authorities, he said. "But the steps will proceed as quickly as possible, as [the troubled region] cannot wait while future losses are unpredictable, depending on situations."

Among key details in the road map will be how long each step would take and about which areas would be gradually designated violence-free in accordance with agreements reached by both security authorities and insurgents. These are steps from general peace agreements practised in other countries, he said.

The road map and further processes are in accordance with international standards, he claimed. Personnel have been assigned to receive training about peace dialogue, based on lessons and models demonstrated in and learned from other countries with similar insurgent activities.

Asked when the first step would begin, Prayut said it would depend on how Malaysia, as the facilitator of the peace efforts, would seek out cooperation from various groups of insurgents as co-parties in the dialogue.

He said he had been in touch with his Malaysian counterpart twice, with new chief negotiator General Aksara Kerdphol present to discuss the progress.

In related news, a bread-shop worker was killed and two others seriously wounded in a shooting attack in Narathiwat's Rusoh district yesterday.

Responding to a report of a homicide at 12.30pm in front of a bread shop in Ban Pupoh of tambon Reu So Ok, police found the victim's body.

The identity of the deceased was not immediately known because the attacker took the victim's wallet. Police collected five spent bullets at the scene.

The two wounded men - Jakkarin Kaenkaew and Somchai Preuksadee, both 21 - were taken to the local hospital.

The initial police inquiry found that the three men - all Surin province natives - got out of a pickup truck to check bread stock at the shop when four men on two motorcycles stopped nearby. Passengers on the motorbikes opened fire on the three workers in an attack police believe was part of the region's unrest.

In Pattani's Muang district, meanwhile, suspected insurgents planted a five-kilogram roadside bomb meant for soldiers, but nobody was hurt. The bomb, hidden at a roadside stall on the number 42 road (Pattani-Narathiwat) in Tambon Barahom, was detonated at 8am when a squadron of soldiers passed the spot during a routine patrol protecting teachers.

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