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Southeast Asia
Thailand set to start peace talks
Thailand is ready to begin peace talks with Muslim insurgent groups active in the south, a senior security official said on Wednesday, signaling a possible breakthrough in the conflict.

Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), said, "This is the first step. The start of a peace dialogue with representatives from Muslim rebel groups."

An agreement on preliminary talks is to be signed on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur ahead of a meeting between Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak.

Malaysia, which helped broker a peace deal between the Philippine government and Muslim insurgents in October, appears to have brought the Thai rebels to the table. Previous attempts at talks have gone nowhere and analysts said it was not even certain the participants in those talks were the legitimate leaders of the insurgency.

Before his trip to Malaysia, Paradorn had said Thailand would seek Malaysia's help to determine which rebel groups were operating in the Thai south and then facilitate talks with the groups. He said, "There has been dialogue with insurgent groups on and off for many months but not as often as we would like."

Thai officials say the attacks in the south are organized by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Coordinate, an offshoot of the Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front set up in the 1960s to seek greater autonomy. Another group, the Patani United Liberation Front, publicly calls for a separate state.

The insurgents have never clearly stated their demands since the violence flared up in 2004 but they are thought to want more autonomy or a separate state in a region that was part of a Malay sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909.
Posted by:ryuge