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Thai Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers inspect the site where their colleagues were killed by a bomb detonated by suspected Muslim insurgents in Bacho, Narathawat province, southern Thailand, Oct. 28, 2013 (AP photo by Sumeth Panpetch).

To End Southern Insurgency, Thailand Must Confront Hard Realities

Monday, Dec. 8, 2014

On Dec. 1, during Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s first visit to Kuala Lumpur, he and his Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Najib Razak, agreed on the conditions to restart peace efforts to resolve the deadly southern Thailand insurgency. While the resumption of Malaysia-hosted peace talks between the Thai state and Malay-Muslim rebels is an encouraging sign, the parties are likely to encounter formidable challenges as they attempt to structure a political solution that will lead to a durable peace and end Southeast Asia’s most lethal ongoing conflict.

Since the latest outbreak of the insurgency in Thailand’s Malay-Muslim-majority southernmost provinces in 2004, more than 6,000 people have been killed as shadowy insurgents fight for autonomy from predominantly Buddhist Thailand. A succession of Thai governments has tried to stem the violence over the years, but to no avail. Seemingly undeterred, Prayuth, who assumed the premiership after leading a military coup against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government earlier this year, vowed in September to end the insurgency before Thailand enters the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community at the end of 2015. His Malaysia visit has laid the groundwork for talks to begin. ...

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