Thailand opens talks with rebels in south

AFP-JIJI

Thailand held its first formal peace talks with a rebel group from its insurgency-wracked south Thursday, as a bombing killed three people in a stark reminder of the difficulties the negotiators face.

The talks with representatives from the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) insurgent group, expected to last one day, will focus on reducing bloodshed, Thai National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr said, warning the overall peace process would take time.

“Today’s main focus is to reduce violence. Today we will focus on building mutual trust and good relations,” Paradorn told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, where the meeting was being held. “I am confident that they will communicate our message to their militants but because BRN is a large organization we have to give them some time.”

The insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost Muslim-majority provinces, which border Malaysia, has been waged by a number of shadowy groups and killed more than 5,500 people over the past nine years.

Thailand blamed a Thursday morning bombing that killed three people on militants seeking to sabotage peace efforts, underscoring the problems that lie ahead. Three Thai paramilitary personnel were killed and five wounded in the roadside bombing targeting a security patrol in the province of Narathiwat.