Thailand and Malay-Muslim insurgents agree to March-April ceasefire, cautious hope for permanent peace
Thai authorities and Malay-Muslim insurgents have agreed to a ceasefire spanning Ramadan and the Buddhist Songkran festival, negotiators said, a small but significant step towards ending a conflict which has claimed several thousand lives over nearly two decades.
Thailand colonised the region over a century ago and has sought to consolidate Malay culture and customs of the majority Muslim population under its control.
The conflict has claimed at least 7,300 lives, the majority of them civilians, caught up in the near-daily shootings and bomb attacks in a restive area just a few hundred miles from Thailand’s southern tourist beaches.
His government took over last year after nearly a decade of military-dominated administration and has retained conservative arch-royalists in the cabinet.
On Wednesday, Chatchai Bangchuad, the Thai government’s chief negotiator concluded two days of talks with Anas Abdul Rahman, the lead envoy of the main separatist group the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN). The talks were hosted by Malaysia’s mediator Zulkifli Zainal Abidin in Kuala Lumpur.
“[Both sides agree] to ensure that Ramadan and Songkran will be a peaceful period,” Zulkifli said as part of a “cessation of hostilities” in confidence-building measures towards signing a wider peace deal.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Both sides agreed to meet again later this month and in March to iron out details towards the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Towards Peace (JCPP).
The BRN has called for an independent ‘Patani’ but has sometimes indicated it is willing to compromise with self-determination or a level of autonomous government within the Thai state.
“We hope that the change of the Thai government to one that is