Thailand Expresses Confidence On Future Of Southern Thai Peace Talks

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By Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa
BANGKOK, May 16 (Bernama) – Thailand has expressed confidence on the future of the southern Thai peace process despite the change in Malaysia’s government following the country’s 14th general election (GE).

Malaysia has taken on the role of facilitator in the ongoing peace talks between Bangkok and MARA Patani, an umbrella body representing several militant groups in the provinces.

“It is the government’s policy (on the southern Thai peace process), so whoever becomes the (Malaysian government) we must continue the cooperation,” Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha told the media after attending the weekly cabinet meeting here Tuesday.

His government initiated the peace talks more than three years ago after taking over the country in a military coup and roped in Malaysia to act as facilitator.

The peace talks, according to Prayut, must be held outside of Thailand. Kuala Lumpur has been the favoured venue for talks between both parties.

The just-concluded 14th Malaysian General Election saw Pakatan Harapan (PH), a coalition of political parties led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad defeat the Barisan Nasional (BN) which was headed by then-prime minister Najib Razak.

The defeat ended BN's 60-year rule of the country. Following the PH victory, the 92-year-old Dr Mahathir was sworn in as the country's seventh prime minister.

Meanwhile, Prayut's deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon when met by the media Tuesday, said Thailand would wait for the formation of the Malaysian Government before continuing discussions on the southern Thai peace talks.

Discussions with the new Malaysian administration will include issues regarding the implementation of Safety Zone (SZ) in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat.

Prawit, however, anticipated the election of a new Malaysian Government might also see the appointment of a new official to serve as facilitator.

“We must wait for the new Malaysian Government,” he said, adding that he was also confident that measures to secure the Thai-Malaysian border would remain intact.

More than 7,000 people have died since the armed conflict in southern Thailand erupted in 2004.

-- BERNAMA