Thai PM Yingluck may seek Malaysia's help on insurgency

Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:41am EST
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai authorities and separatist rebels could be inching towards talks after nine years of violence and the loss of more than 5,000 lives in Thailand's Muslim-dominated southern provinces bordering Malaysia.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is meeting her Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday and may seek his help to make contact with rebel groups.

"There are insurgent groups operating within Malaysia and Thailand that want to talk to the Thai government," Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council of Thailand (NSC), told Reuters.

"We want Malaysia to facilitate these talks."

The NSC brings together government ministers and officials charged with coordinating security matters with the military. In a 2012 paper it acknowledged a political dimension to the violence and proposed dialogue with the insurgents, but the military, which has a big presence in the south, is lukewarm.

"The military has had regular contact with Malaysia. We are not involved with the meeting on Thursday, because this is a government initiative," Udomchai Thammasarorat, commander of the Fourth Army in southern Thailand, told Reuters.

"Our military strategy is clear and we are making good progress towards resolving the conflict," he said.

Independent analysts see little evidence that the military is winning, despite its success in thwarting an attack on a marine base on February 13 in which 16 insurgents were killed, with no loss of life among the marines.   Continued...

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra smiles during her meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in Hong Kong February 26, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3EANV