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.
Under the agreement, five districts in the three Deep Southern provinces, two each in Yala and Narathiwat and one in Pattani, one of which will be made a model district, will be established as safety zones.
The exact identities of the districts selected have not been agreed as yet, but MARA Patani stated that a Joint Technical Team of both conflict parties will draw up detailed regulations and procedures for an assessment team to visit the designated districts.
Afterwards, a Joint Action Committee will be formed from MARA Patani and Thai state representatives together with civil society organisations and local representatives of the district designated as a model to monitor the establishment of the safety zone for six months.
When asked by Thapanee Ietsrichai, a Channel 3 reporter, if MARA Patani would be able to control the activities of insurgents, Abu Hafez Al-Hakim said that if all goes well with the safety zone, the local people will be supportive.
Predominantly Muslim Malay, the region, composed of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla, has been pervaded by armed conflict for the past decade which has claimed almost 6,500 lives.