Mahathir offer ideas on bringing peace back to Thai South

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The former prime ministers of Thailand and Malaysia, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, met yesterday to speak about their vision of peace for the South of Thailand, which is predominantly Muslim and has been hit by insurgent attacks since 2004.

Speaking at the “Patani Peace Process in Asean Context” seminar at Prince of Songkla University’s Hat Yai campus, Abhisit said the three key elements for restoring peace in the region were development, justice and local participation. He explained that all stakeholders should have space to voice their ideas that might differ from the state.

Violence in the deep South is unique because nobody is claiming responsibility for the attacks that take place almost on a daily basis, he said. The insurgents have not issued a manifesto to say exactly what they want, he said, adding that it would take time to restore peace because each side needed to build trust and confidence to discuss the issues.

Abhisit said the root causes of the problems were differences and diversity, which could not be eliminated but people could find ways of living with them peacefully. He admitted that though there was no instant formula to end the conflict in the deep South, countering violence with violence would never help.

The region was relatively peaceful before 2000, but things changed when the government of the day decided to enforce more power in the region, he explained.

Abhisit said that using military means, as employed by previous governments, would never solve problems and that the authorities should instead employ political measures.

The Patani peace process was launched by a group of academics and activists in an effort to find ways of solving the nine-year-long conflict. They believe that the root cause of the conflict, which has killed thousands since 2004, lies in ethnicity, history and religion.

Central to the peace process, they said, was to open and expand a common space for dialogue for “insiders” so they can analyse and propose a road map for peace under the new context of the Asean community.

Mahathir, meanwhile, told the forum that the insurgency in the South was a domestic problem that Asean could not interfere in.

However, he said, Asean members could engage in the issue if they had the express consent of Thailand. He said Malaysia, in particular, had not intervened and never would, though it could cooperate by providing intelligence information and advice on resolving the problem peacefully.

The veteran politician went on to say that it was not wise for any country to be involved in another country’s internal affairs.

Meanwhile, violence in the South continued yesterday as two separate drive-by shootings in Pattani’s Kapho and Panare districts killed one and injured another.

Marapee Banapanae, 45, was shot dead while walking home from a teashop in Kapho district, while Ibrahim Hae, 47, was injured by a shooting while returning home from a mosque in Panare district.  – The Nation/Asia News Network