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Rebels in Thai south abandon peace talks
Publication Date : 09-08-2013
A Malay-Muslim separatist group has called off talks with the Thai government aimed at resolving a historic conflict, that, in the past nine years, has claimed more than 5,000 lives in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south.
The group called Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Pattani (BRN), in a message posted on YouTube on Tuesday, said the Thai state could not expect any more talks with them.
There was no immediate response from Thailand's National Security Council (NSC) that has been leading the talks in Malaysia, which started in February and are still at a confidence-building stage. An adviser to the NSC said the agency will wait for formal confirmation before venturing a response.
General Nipat Thonglek, one of the Thai military's negotiators at the talks, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying the video message was "the work of people who disagree with (BRN representative at the talks, Hassan Taib) and want to stop negotiations. It will not affect negotiations... The talks must continue".
Violence in the strife-torn region had abated after the government and BRN agreed on July 12 to refrain from hostile actions for 40 days, which included the Ramadan period.
However, from the third week of last month, the ceasefire began to disintegrate after two alleged militants were killed by security forces or possibly vigilantes operating under them.
The army also raided a remote militant camp, triggering a complaint by the BRN that the agreement was being violated.
Militants then resumed attacks in which civilians and security personnel were killed. The Thai authorities have denied ceasefire violations.
Security specialist Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Thai government will have to wait for official word from talks facilitator Malaysia on whether the talks were off.
But he added: "This was not unexpected, given the problems, but it is a big step backwards."
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino yesterday vowed tough action against "enemies of peace" after a spate of bomb attacks in the south which security officials blamed on a new Al-Qaeda-linked militant group, reported Reuters.
Bombings since July 26 have killed more than a dozen people and wounded scores more on Mindanao island.
*with reports by AFP and Reuters