29 March 2013
At a meeting in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Thai authorities met with representatives from one of the insurgent groups involved in the continuing conflict in Thailand’s Deep South region. The size of the task was underlined ahead of the talks when a roadside bomb killed three Thai soldiers in Narathiwat province, whilst in a separate incident in the same province, two Buddhist civilians were fatally shot. The latest casualties add to a death toll that is estimated to be more than 5,300 since the violence flared again in 2004.
The chief of the Thai National Security Council, Paradorn Pattanatabut, said that one of the aims of the initial one-day meeting was to “focus on building mutual trust and good relations . . .” Nobody involved in the process is under any illusion about the size and difficulty of the task involved, but the opening of formal talks marks a change of approach from the Thai authorities who have accepted the offer by Malaysia to act as an independent broker.