Thailand mulls rebel talks

Thailand's coup leader has said he will consider talks with rebels from the country's mainly Muslim south in an attempt to end three years of separatist violence.

    Hundreds have died in Thailand's southern insurgency

    General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, who led the bloodless coup against the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, on September 19, said that officials from several rebel factions had contacted army commanders and requested talks.

     

    "I have agreed to the talks," Sondhi was quoted by AP news agency as saying.

     

    "I stress that these will be talks, not negotiations. If they are seeking co-operation with us, that kind of approach is OK with me."

     

    However Lieutenant-General Viroach Buacharoon, the region's most senior commander, said that contact was still in the early stages and only between lower level officials and intermediaries for the various groups.

     

    He also said that the groups had to prove that they were serious about committing to talks by declaring a ceasefire.

     

    "Before any dialogue takes place, the insurgents must stop the violence for a month to show their sincerity," he said.

     

    Forceful

     

    Thaksin's government, which rejected holding talks with Islamist groups in the south, had been criticised for its forceful approach to the violence.

     

    Thailand's Islamist separatists have been active in the south since the 1970s, but violence erupted in the region in January 2004 after a raid by fighters on an army barracks.

     

    Islamist fighters then began a campaign of violence against authorities in the south, which led to a harsh response from Bangkok.

     

    Hundreds of people have been killed in the violence, most recently in September when four people, including a Canadian tourist, died after bombs planted by separatists exploded in Thailand's commercial hub, Hat Yai.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Meet the deported nurse aiding asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

    Meet the deported nurse helping refugees at the border

    Francisco 'Panchito' Olachea drives a beat-up ambulance around Nogales, taking care of those trying to get to the US.

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    How a homegrown burger joint pioneered a food revolution and decades later gave a young, politicised class its identity.

    'We will cut your throats': The anatomy of Greece's lynch mobs

    The brutality of Greece's racist lynch mobs

    With anti-migrant violence hitting a fever pitch, victims ask why Greek authorities have carried out so few arrests.