Thailand and Muslim separatists agree on a new plan to end the violence News
Talks will resume after one year in Malaysia to end the conflict that has killed more than 7,000 people since 2004.
The Thai government and Muslim separatist rebels in the country’s south have agreed “in principle” on an updated road map to try to end decades of fighting.
Malaysian facilitator Zulkifli Zainal Abidin told reporters on Wednesday that the two sides had agreed in principle on an “improved” peace plan.
He added: “It is a great achievement after the dialogue stopped last year due to the Thai elections.”
The two sides held talks over two days in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and will meet again during the next two months to work out the details of the plan. They hope to agree on a ceasefire that includes the month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10, and the Thai Songkran festival in mid-April.
Malaysia has hosted and facilitated talks between separatist groups and the Thai government since 2013. But little progress has been made.
He added: “(The peace plan), if approved by the technical teams, will be signed as soon as possible.” …There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Both parties are willing to put pen to paper. “Previously, there was no talk of signing any documents,” the facilitator said.
More than 7,000 people have died in violence in Malay-majority Thailand and in the Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat since 2004.
The provinces, which belonged to the independent Malay Muslim Sultanate before being annexed by Thailand in 1909, are 80 percent Muslim while the rest of the country is overwhelmingly Buddhist.
The fighting is sporadic but brutal, with separatists carrying out shootings and drive-by bombings. Malay Muslims accuse security forces of routine abuses, including prolonged and arbitrary detentions without charges, as well as extrajudicial killings.
Southern Thai Muslims – who differ in race, culture and language from the Buddhist majority – believe they are being treated as second-class citizens and enjoy the sympathy of many Malaysians, of whom about 60% are Muslims.
Anas Abdul Rahman – the head of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Pattani, the largest separatist group – told reporters that he had high hopes for a lasting solution under the new Thai government, led by Prime Minister Sritha Thavisin.
Last year, the Thai government appointed Chatchai Pangchuad, the first civilian to head the talks.
Chachai said that any signing of the peace plan depends on the results of technical discussions.
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