Separatist group in Thai south trusts Thaksin for peace initiative

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra won much admiration from the separatist movement for his initiative that led to the peace process in the deep South, according to a former member of the insurgent group that recently agreed to peace talks with Thai authorities.

"He was the first person to have the courage to talk with the BRN. This has made the world community aware that the Thai government acknowledges the existence of this movement," said the man, who prefers to be called "Hope".

The BRN, which stands for Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front) in the Malay language, is one of the separatist groups blamed for insurgent attacks in the Muslim-majority southern border region in Thailand.

According to Hope, Thaksin was involved in talks with BRN leaders a few years ago. The ex-PM met with a group led by Hasan Taib for the first time in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where Thaksin has been in self-exile since 2008 escaping imprisonment at home.

The talk was mediated by Dubai officials and there were many such meetings later in some countries where the BRN leaders were not residing - these referring to locations outside Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Hope.

Hasan represented the BRN in signing an agreement to endorse peace dialogue with National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabut in Kuala Lumpur on February 28. The former BRN member, in his interview with the Isra News Agency, said that the BRN trusted Thaksin more than the opposition Democrat Party to heed its demands.

"The Democrats will in no way agree to the movement's proposal, but Thaksin can avoid rules and skip loopholes. When Thaksin agreed to talks, the [BRN] leaders trusted him and agreed to talk with him," said Hope.

He said the insurgent movement's ultimate goal was to take control over the land of Patani, which is now the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. However, compromises could be made if the Thai authorities show sincerity in ensuring justice for the locals.

In response to the fact that insurgent attacks did not stop despite the NSC-BRN deal in Malaysia, he said there are other separatist groups working in the deep South. "Incidents have not completely gone in the area because it is not only the BRN that carry out the attacks," he said.

Hope said he left the BRN "some time ago" after his mother-in-law died and his wife had to move back to Thailand to take care of her disabled sibling. He and his wife had lived in Malaysia while he was part of the BRN. Before leaving the movement, he was warned against disclosing its secrets.

Although he is no longer part of the BRN, he still follows news and developments regarding the movement and his former colleagues, he said.


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