New Muslim rebel front in Thailand calls for talks

A new umbrella group of Muslim rebels who are waging a bloody insurgency in southern Thailand called yesterday for a resumption of stalled peace talks but it was unclear whether the Thai military junta would recognise them.

Representatives of Mara Pattani, which claims to speak for six of the insurgency’s leading rebel organisations, said they met Thai officials during exploratory talks in Malaysia this week.

“Our principle is to find a solution through peaceful dialogue,” Awang Jabat, the group’s chairman, told reporters during a briefing on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

“We hope we can bring the conflict to an end and promote a lasting peace.”

He said Thai representatives at this week’s dialogue were noncommittal, saying they had to consult with junta leaders.
But junta spokesman Werachon Sukhondhapatipak, in comments to AFP in Bangkok, appeared to cast doubt on a speedy resumption of peace talks.

“(The peace talks) are an issue for the security agencies. Don’t give any importance to brand new organisations,” he said.

A decade-long insurgency has seen near-daily bombings, shootings and occasional beheadings in three southern Thai states including Pattani.