THAILAND - In the wake of the Philippines signing a historic peace agreement with Muslim rebels last week, many are hoping Thailand's peace talks with separatists in the deep South will reach the same conclusion soon.
The Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro last Thursday.
However, Thailand's peace dialogue with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) cannot compare with the Philippine deal in various ways, notably policymaker sincerity, resource pooling, participation, elimination of self-serving political gains, respecting differences and harmonious co-existence. The deal signed in Manila also came after 17 years of talks.
Ahmad Zamzamin bin Hashim, former director of Malaysia's national intelligence agency, who had acted as a facilitator in the peace dialogue between Thailand's National Security Council and the BRN, seems to only be doing a "road show" for the dialogue's "success".
On the other hand, former Border Co-ordinating Centre chief General Aekkanit Muensawat regards information gathered from all sides as suggesting that on the first anniversary since the dialogue started that it has failed, and if it were to proceed, it would require major restructuring.
What can be gained from peace talks?
General Aekkanit explained that the Thai government, the BRN and Malaysia, as facilitator, stood to gain the following:
Thailand's gains include:
1. Allowing deep South residents and the world to see Thailand is intent on solving the unrest by peaceful means.
2. Opening an official channel for talks because talks have been conducted unofficially.
The BRN's gains include:
1. Being elevated from an illegal separatist movement and thus gaining more support from various countries.
2. Gaining local Muslim support to liberate Pattani.
3. Raising the awareness of all sides about an autonomous administrative zone or a special administrative zone as well as the right to self determination.