Muslim insurgents in Thailand to cease attacks during Ramadan
Islamist separatists in Thailand’s restive southernmost region have agreed to cease attacks on state security forces during the Muslim month of Ramadan, according to the main separatist group.
Representatives of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), who met last week with a Thai delegation during the latest round of peace talks in Malaysia, said in a statement that insurgents in Thailand’s three Muslim-majority southernmost provinces will stop violence from April 3 to May 14.
The decision, which was made in collaboration with Thai negotiators, aims to “create a safe and prosperous atmosphere” for Muslims for the duration of the holy month, a highly significant period in the Muslim religious calendar.
Simultaneously, Thailand’s government, which has hailed the agreement as “significant progress,” has said in another statement that this month-long “environment conducive to peace” will enable people to “safely perform their religious practices.”
The cessation of violence will also boost public confidence in the ongoing peace negotiations between the two sides, it said.
It remains to be seen, however, if this agreement will lead to longer-lasting peace in the troubled region where well over 7,300 people have lost their lives in violence perpetrated by the two sides since 2004.
Many locals have never resigned themselves to being part of a Buddhist-majority state, according to some analysts, and persistent violence in the region bordering Malaysia has been part of daily life for nearly two decades
In recent weeks, shadowy insurgent groups in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have launched bombing attacks against security personnel, dampening hopes for a peaceful resolution to the long-running conflict.
Hardline insurgents have repeatedly indicated over the years that they would accept no political solution short of full independence for the southern Muslim-majority provinces, which are inhabited predominantly by ethnic Malays and were once part of a sultanate that was annexed in 1909 by what was then the Kingdom of Siam.
Many locals have never resigned themselves to being part of a Buddhist-majority state, according to some analysts, and persistent violence in the region bordering Malaysia has been part of daily life for nearly two decades.
Thailand’s military-allied government, which seized power in a coup in 2014, has pledged repeatedly to pacify the restive region by finding a political solution, but it has made little progress in stopping regular attacks perpetrated by suspected insurgents, including hit-and-run attacks with assault weapons and bombings with homemade explosive devises.
Rights groups have said that heavy-handed state security measures such as extrajudicial killings, summary arrests and the alleged torture of suspects have alienated a large segment of the local Muslim population.
Insurgents have been faulted for often targeting Buddhist civilians such as teachers and monks as well as Muslims they deem to be collaborators.
By UCA News reporter, Bangkok