Anwar vows to facilitate peace talks in restive southern Thailand

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim pledged to “do whatever is required” to facilitate a peaceful solution to a long-simmering insurgency in southern Thailand during an official visit to Bangkok today.

More than 7,300 people have been killed since 2004 in fighting between Thai forces and shadowy groups seeking independence for the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Malay provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and parts of Songkhla, which border Malaysia.

The area was part of the Patani sultanate that Thailand annexed in a 1909 treaty with Britain.

Anwar stressed the insurgency is an internal issue for Thailand but said Malaysia will do whatever it can to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict, starting with appointing Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, 65, a former head of Malaysia’s armed forces, as facilitator to the process.

“It is our duty as a good neighbour and family to do whatever is required and necessary to facilitate the process,” Anwar said.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan o-cha said cooperation will help address the problems in the restive provinces, specifically greater economic development and improved connectivity between the two countries.

The Barisan Revolusi Nasional, the main insurgent group involved in talks with the Thai government, did not comment when contacted by Reuters.

Malaysia has helped facilitate peace talks between the separatists groups and the Thai government since 2013.

The latest round of talks resumed last year after a two-year suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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