Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thailand’s SOUTH CRISIS OIC to take up issue of militancy in South
56-country organisation has meetings with Patani Malay separatist groups
The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) is poised to delve into the issue of insurgency in Thailand's Muslim-majority South to look for a political solution to the ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 4,200 lives since January 2004.
According to diplomatic sources and leaders of the long-standing Patani Malay separatist groups, the OIC had organised simultaneous meetings with these exiled leaders in Kuala Lumpur and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on September 30-October 1.
OIC secretary-general Prof Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu chaired the meeting in Jeddah, while Talal A Daous, the organisation's director for the Muslim Minorities and Communities group, chaired the gathering in Kuala Lumpur.
GROUPS THAT HAD TALKS
Participants of the recent gathering at the two cities included two factions of the Patani United Liberation Organisations (PULO), Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), Barisan Islam Pembangunan Pattani (BIPP) and others senior leaders from the exiled community.
The leaders were urged to combine their efforts to form a political front, while the OIC vowed to help facilitate a dialogue process with the Thai government. The Malaysian government helped facilitate the meeting in Kuala Lumpur and it was understood that Malaysia would work closely with the OIC on this initiative.
According to one diplomat, the OIC urged these longstanding separatist groups to combine efforts and form the United Patani People Council (UPPC). Once the front was created, the Patani People Congress (PCC) would be in the pipeline. The idea behind the PCC is to obtain some sort of mandate from the Muslims of Patani, a Malay historical homeland that came under Bangkok's direct rule just over a century ago when the vassal state was annexed by Siam.
A participant at the meetings quoted OIC officials as having said their organisation was the "most suitable" to take up the initiative, citing religious affiliation and a long history of interest in the conflict in Thailand's deep South.
The move by the 56-member OIC was welcomed by the exiled Patani Malay leaders and it was the most concrete action yet. However, almost all interviewed by The Nation cautioned against any great expectation, saying similar initiatives by the OIC as well as other so-called peace processes in the recent past have failed to take off or translate into formal peace.
"The OIC has expressed interest in seeing peace in Patani but the most they have done was issue statements criticising the treatment of Malay Muslims by the Thai state," said one exiled leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One Pulo source said his faction was taking a "wait and see" approach, saying it was "too early to make any conclusion as to how this initiative will evolve".
Another Pulo leader from a different faction said for any initiative to gain real traction, it would be up to "the Thais themselves as to whom they thought suitable to be a mediator or facilitator".
The Nation, Bangkok