Deep South peace talk
The peace process to solve the conflict in the southernmost provinces of Thailand, known as Patani, which was officially inaugurated officially on 28 February 2013, has never been smooth. The process is susceptible to any significant political change, and a small hitch may cause a long stagnation. The visit of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, to Thailand during 24 and 25 October 2018, seems to have signalled a promising restart. The conflict was allegedly top of the agenda in his meeting with the Thai Prime Minister.
The Thai government and a Muslim Malay liberation organization have reached an agreement to make one district of the Deep South safe for civilians.
Five months after agreeing on preconditions for peace talks, the Thai government and Deep South insurgent groups have agreed on a general framework to set up safety zones in the restive region. On 28 February 2017, Abu Hafez Al-Hakim, a delegate and key member of MARA Patani, an umbrella organization of Deep South independent movements, announced that the group and the Thai government representatives to the Deep South peace negotiations in Malaysia had reached an agreement on a framework to establish safety zones.
In response to recent bomb attacks, the junta will establish a ‘front-line cabinet’ working directly under the junta’s supervision to resolve conflicts in Thailand’s restive Deep South. The junta is in the process of establishing a ‘front-line cabinet’, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta head and Prime Minister, told the media at Government House on 13 September 2016. This cabinet is expected to work directly under the junta on the peace talks process with Deep South insurgents.
An insurgent umbrella organisation in Thailand’s restive Deep South has insisted it was not involved in a recent bomb attack that killed a 4-year-old girl and her father. On 9 July 2016, the Mara Patani group posted on its official Facebook page a statement condemning the bomb attacks. The bombing occurred three days earlier at a school in Tak Bai District, in the Deep South province of Narathiwat.
The junta head has said insurgents in Thailand’s restive Deep South must stop all violence and merge into one group before initiating peace talks with the Thai government. On Monday, 29 August 2016, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta head and Prime Minister, spoke to the media about discussions on the Terms of Reference (ToR) for talks between the Thai government and Mara Patani, representing insurgent groups in Thailand’s restive Deep South, which will be held on 2 July in Malaysia.
Muslims all over the world are observing their religious duty of fasting during the holy month, Ramadan. Hostility being prohibited during this month, many people have the naive hope that the conflict situation in Patani, or the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Thailand, will improve at least temporarily.
Abu Hafez Al-Hakim, a MARA Patani delegate discussed about the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the peace dialogue between Bangkok and MARA Patani, as umbreralla organization of the insurgent movements. The TOR, if endorsed, will kick start the official peace dialogue.
Bangkok is going to unilaterally review the terms of reference (TOR) of the peace dialogue with Muslim Malay insurgents. Meanwhile, delegates of the insurgents groups are disappointed with junta leader disparagement of the talks.
The removal of a senior military officer who had played a key role in the Thai dialogue team in the southern peace talks, and the team's unreadiness to endorse the draft terms of reference (ToR), raise concerns about whether the process is facing a deadlock. The technical teams of Party A, representing the Thai government, and Party B, a term defined as "people with different opinions from the state" and represented by Mara Patani, have spent several months working on the ToR.