The most prominent insurgent group in Thailand’s south rejected the military’s peace plan in a rare statement on Monday, underscoring Bangkok’s inability to open negotiations with the actual fighters in the conflict.
The country’s southernmost border provinces, which were annexed by Thailand more than a century ago, have been plagued with violence for over a decade as ethnic Malay rebels battle Thai troops for more autonomy from the Buddhist-majority state.The fighting has claimed more than 6,800 lives—mostly civilians—since 2004, with both sides accused of rights abuses and atrocities.
The shadowy Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) is believed to be behind much of the violence, although it never claims attacks and shuns publicity.
On Monday it outlined objections to Bangkok’s peace plan, saying it “must include the participation of third parties (international community) as witnesses and observers” and that an “impartial” mediator should lead the talks, not the Thai army.
In February the military and a group of rebel peace negotiators agreed to create a cluster of “safety zones”—the first small but significant step in a much delayed peace process.—. APF