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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 13 -- The Thai government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) agreed to form a joint working group in an effort to resolve the armed conflict in southern Thailand.
The matter was agreed upon in the third peace talks between BRN and the Thai government which lasted for two days starting Tuesday, here.
The head of the BRN delegation to the talks, Anas Abdulrahman, said the first meeting of the working group had not been determined, but it is expected to be held before the next peace talks.
"Both parties (BRN and the Thai government) have agreed to send representatives and the management of this working group will be managed by the facilitator secretariat," he told a press conference, here, today.
Anas said it has also been agreed – during the peace talks – to discuss substantive issues related to political solutions, public consultation, and reduction of acts of violence by both sides.
According to him, among the issues to be discussed include governance, education, recognition of the identity of the Pattani people, and the economic system in southern Thailand.
In addition, both sides agreed to form an agreement on the general principles of peace negotiations between the BRN and the Thai government related to the issues on hand.
The negotiations also came to an agreement on formulating the terms of reference (ToR) and methods to be adopted for implementation in the field in the near future.
" We (BRN) really hope that the process can be continued and bring genuine and honourable peace for all the Malays of Pattani," he said.
Asked about the current situation in southern Thailand, Anas said the attacks had greatly decreased since the BRN announced a cessation of violence on April 4, 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We do not term it as a ceasefire; but for the BRN, we stop carrying out attacks unless the BRN is attacked (and) we have to defend ourselves," he said.
Formal face-to-face talks had previously been stalled for nearly two years following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, both parties have held three virtual meetings during the period.
The Thai government's delegation to the talks was led by General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, while former national police chief Tan Sri Rahim Mohd Noor acted as the facilitator representing the Malaysian government.
The official meetings are seen as new hopes in ending the violence in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla – provinces where the majority of the population is Muslim.
The uprising in southern Thailand that began in 2004 has claimed more than 7,000 lives.
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