BANGKOK, April 28 — Majlis Syura Patani or MARA Patani said today it was informed that the Thai government side could not sign the terms of reference for the southern Thailand peace talks as Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha has yet to approve it.
The spokesman of MARA Patani and a member of its negotiation panel, Dr Abu Hafez al-Hakim, said MARA Patani was disappointed but respected the decision.
MARA Patani is an umbrella body representing several southern Thailand militant groups and has been engaging in informal peace talks with the Thai government.
“We are unsure if Party A (Thailand) wants to review the TOR, draft a new one or suspend the process altogether. We (MARA Patani) were informed that the Thai Prime Minister has not yet approved it,” he told Bernama today.
The Thai negotiation team to the peace talks led by its head Gen Aksara Kerdphol and MARA Patani met in Kuala Lumpur today for their third unofficial meeting of the Joint Working Group-Peace Dialogue Process (JWG-PDP).
The MARA Patani team to today’s meeting was headed by Shukri Hari while Malaysia, which acted as facilitator to the peace talks, was represented by Datuk Seri Ahmad Zamzamin.
According to Abu Hafez, the main agenda for today’s meeting was the approval of the TOR which was discussed and mutually agreed by both technical teams after three rounds of meeting between October last year and last month.
“It could pave the way for formalising the process. The Steering Committee of MARA Patani approved it earlier this month,” he said and added that the removal of Lt Gen Nakrob Boonbuathong recently could be a reason behind Thailand’s decision on the TOR.
He described Nakrob, who was the secretary for Thailand’s negotiation panel to the peace talks before he was sacked last week, as the “engine” to the government’s team due to his knowledge of the peace process.
“He (Nakrob) headed the Technical Team of Party A (Thailand). Prior to his removal he was optimistic that Party A will endorse the TOR. His absence was felt and has considerably affected the process,” said Abu Hafez.
As the peace talks are still at the informal stage, MARA Patani refers to the Thai government as “Party A” while the government refers to its counterpart in the talks as “Party B”.
Another main agenda of the meeting was on the concept of Safety Zones.
MARA Patani, he said, was of the view that as long as the TOR was not endorsed, the issue of Safety Zones and other vital issues could not be mutually discussed for implementation. — Bernama