12/02/2014, 00.00
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Muslim separatism: Thailand and Malaysia establish conditions for peace

Yesterday in Kuala Lumpur face to face talks between the Thai premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha and his counterpart Najib Razak. As a precondition for talks they demand an end to attacks by all the rebel groups. So far, the fragmentation of the separatist struggle has hindered negotiations. In ten years of conflict over 6 thousand people have died, mostly civilians.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An end of the attacks at the hands of all the rebel groups involved in the separatist struggle and return to the negotiating table. These are the conditions laid down yesterday by the Malaysian Prime Minister and his Thai counterpart (pictured) for the resumption of peace talks - currently stalled - in southern Thailand, which has been plagued by a separatist insurgency led by Muslim movements .

The face to face talks between Najib Razak and Prayut Chan-O-Cha took place in Kuala Lumpur, during the Thai prime minister's brief one day visit to Malaysia. It was the first visit by the former head of the armed forces since he seized power in Bangkok following a coup.

Following the talks, local political analysts and experts pointed out that, under these conditions, peace talks are unlikely to resume "in the short term" .  However, the two leaders confirmed that the situation in southern Thailand, near the border with Malaysia, is a "priority" for both governments.

In a press conference held at the end of the meeting the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib said that if the rebels stop attacks, Bangkok is willing to "reduce" the army's presence in the former conflict areas.

In the last year the decades long separatist conflict promoted by pro-Islamic groups has resumed with increased intensity registering almost daily attacks, bombings, shootings and sporadic beheadings. For this the Thai army has launched a campaign to ensure "security", which has only exacerbated clashes between the various factions.

The war in southern Thailand has so far caused at least 6,100 victims, most of them civilians. Prime Minister Najib admitted that it "will take time" to achieve any results. Moreover, already last year Malaysia hosted a series of peace talks between one of the rebel groups fighting the government then in office, led by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. These talks stalled with the fall of the executive and the 'rise to power of the military, led by Prayut.

The Malaysian Prime Minister says it is essential that all the rebel movements unite and speak with one voice, formalizing their demands, so that serious negotiations can begin with Bangkok. According to experts, so far the divisions within the various movements and the fragmentation of the separatist struggle have undermined all peace efforts.

The Muslim majority in the southern region of Thailand, an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation, has never accepted Bangkok's rule: the local population speaks a Malaysian dialect and follow customs and traditions rooted in Muslim culture. Protesting  against the visit of Prime Minister Prayut  to Malaysia, yesterday dozens of people demonstrated outside the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur, shouting  that the former general "illegally" came to power.


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