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Source: Bangkok Post

The Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement is ready to resume the peace dialogue for the troubled South if Bangkok is eager to return to the negotiation table, a spokesman for the separatist movement said.

The BRN delegates to the Malaysia-brokered peace dialogue have been watching developments in Thailand, particularly the recent announcement by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) that it wanted to solve the southern problem as a priority, said the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The recent committee set up by the military to solve the crisis is merely cosmetic and slow in responding to the situation,” said the spokesman. The military council has not contacted the Malaysian facilitator about resuming talks.

“As far as the peace talks are concerned, we are ready when Bangkok is ready. And I understand Malaysia will play a role as facilitator and is still waiting for official communication. Malaysia has never had any problem with the Thai military junta,” he said.

The spokesman also responded to Bangkok Post reports that new terror campaigns were being planned saying “there is no such thing as renewed terror”.

“The current situation has now gone back to where it was before the start of peace talks. It’s like business is back to normal. The armed wing has been waging terror all along, except on a smaller scale during the talks,” the BRN spokesman said. Nobody in the younger generation wanted the peace talks but the BRN movement regarded the dialogue as one possible way to solve the crisis. “That’s why we entered into the process and explored various probabilities,” he said.

The peace dialogue ended after four rounds of talks just after Ramadan last year when politics plunged into a crisis in Bangkok.

The disruption took place as the number of separatist delegates was being increased, upon the recommendation of the Malaysian facilitator and a BRN agreement, to include two representatives from the Pattani United Liberation Organization

Col Banphot Poonpian, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), said Thursday NCPO leader Prayuth Chan-ocha stressed the need for peace talks to be conducted secretly.

Peace talks can often make progress if the initial rounds are kept secret, Col Banphot said, adding that open dialogue would only lead to pressure being exerted by various groups.

Col Banphot said Isoc will continue to engage in peace talks with the BRN and other separatist groups, with Malaysia to remain a facilitator.

Gen Ekkachai Srivilas, director of the King Prajadhipok’s Institute’s Office of Peace and Governance, said Gen Prayuth should directly oversee the peace process himself to ensure the talks succeed.

Gen Prayuth holds full authority in national administration and should make the most of it to resolve the southern conflict, Gen Ekkachai said, adding that solving the southern problem should be made a national priority.

Gen Ekkachai also supported the plan to resume talks with BRN representatives, adding he will present a plan to return the region to peace, including the views of locals in the far South, to the NCPO for consideration.

Talks between the Yingluck government and the BRN broke down during Ramadan a year ago, but not before the separatists had dominated the propaganda war, including with this set of demands issued on the internet in April of last year.

The Criminal Court, meanwhile, on Thursday gave the benefit of the doubt to a 31-year-old man from Yala, acquitting him of involvement in the Mujahideen Islam Pattani separatist movement in the far South.

Mahamasakree Mahama-useng, also known as Ahama Ma-useng, was accused of illegally possessing and carrying firearms and being involved in the separatist movement in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces from June to August 2002.

The court found public prosecutors had only oral evidence based on accounts of four police detectives and interrogators and the defendant’s stepfather who had testified two years after the alleged wrongdoing.

Apart from that, the stepfather – who might not know Thai – had signed an account written up in Thai without anyone translating the content for him.

The defendant had argued that the stepfather had stolen his motorcycle and had called authorities to search his house for illegal items but nothing had been found. In addition, there was no eyewitness in the case.

The court acquitted Mr Mahamasakree but extended his detention pending an appeal. Police arrested Mr Mahamasakree in Phuket on Sept 21, 2012, and he has been detained during investigations.

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