PEACE TALKS IN SOUTHERN THAILAND SHOWS PROGRESS

BANGKOK, The ongoing southern Thai peace talks between Thai government and MARA Patani facilitated by Malaysia have been criticised by local observers over its perceived lack of progress since the talks began over three years ago.

However, the new Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand Jojie Samuel defended the talks and said that negotiation was on track and had shown progress, but more time was needed due to the complexities of issues at hand.

I wouldn't say that there are not much progress (of the talks), there is progress, but it is a matter of perception. The resolution to the issues cannot be achieved immediately, it is not easy because the issues have been there for a long time, he told Bernama in an interview in his office here, recently.

He said as the facilitator of the peace talks, Malaysia wanted to build trust to bridge the opposing parties and make them understand about the needs and requirements before lasting peace in southern Thailand could be realised.

With its success as the mediator between the Philippines government and the country's largest rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Jojie said Kuala Lumpur hoped to create similar story in southern Thailand, despite the difficulties and challenges.

It is difficult but not impossible to achieve, he said confidently.

The conflict in southern Thailand's three mainly Malay-Muslim provinces, Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala began about 15 years ago and had since claimed nearly 7,000 lives, according to the independent monitoring group, Deep South Watch.

The current Malaysia-brokered peace talks between Thailand's military-led government and MARA Patani, a body representing several militant groups began not long after the junta seized power in May 2014.

Despite its noble intentions, the peace talks faced numerous criticisms from the pessimistic observers who not only questioned its lack of results but also disputed the legitimacy of MARA Patani itself, questioning whether the group represented the real actors on the ground.

They claimed officials representing Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in the peace talks did not hold any influence on the militant group, which had been touted by analysts as the most influential and well-armed group in southern Thailand.

MARA Patani which represented six militant groups had denied the assertion.

Despite all the criticisms on the peace talks, the Malaysian ambassador pointed out that the success on the negotiation table was a prerequisite if the resource-rich region and its people wanted to reap success on the economic front.

According to Jojie, economic development would follow after peace and stability had been established in the provinces.

With peace, there will be many investors who wanted to come and invest in southern Thailand and there will be more infrastructure development for the people, he said adding that, many Malaysian investors have expressed their interest to invest in southern provinces.

Many Malaysian investors had wanted to invest in southern Thailand but were held back due to issues surrounding the provinces' security, he added.

Source: NAM News Network