A man described by Thai authorities as a key ideological figure in the Deep South insurgency has died in exile in Malaysia.
Sapae-ing Baso was the de facto leader of the secretive Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the largest and most heavily armed of insurgents groups that have waged a separatist conflict for decades in Thailand’s predominantly Muslim southern border region, according to Thai military sources.
In November, he was named chairman of BRN’s governing council, the Dewan Pimpinan Parti, a Thai security source told BenarNews at the time, leaking a list of DPP members that included Sapae-ing’s name.
The former head master of an Islamic school in the Deep South province of Yala, Sapae-ing died of complications from diabetes in Malaysia on Jan. 10, one of his seven sons told BenarNews on Tuesday. The 81-year-old, who was also known to Thai officials as Safie Basoe, died in the Malaysian state of Terengganu, according to a report in the Bangkok Post.
In a surprise move, Thai Prime Minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Sunday expressed condolences and offered to help his family, whose members live in the Deep South, repatriate his remains, the Post reported.
A day later, hundreds of mourners turned out for a prayer service in Sapae-ing’s memory at his old school, Thammawittaya Foundation School, in Yala, said his son, Salma Baso.
“I heard that my father died of diabetes on the morning of Jan. 10, in Malaysia, so I told teachers at the Thammawittaya Foundation School. … Alumni agreed to perform posthumous praying. The military also called us for confirmation of his death,” Salma told BenarNews at his home in neighboring Pattani province.
Sapae-ing was considered “a spiritual leader” among the southern rebels, according to active and retired Thai military sources. He fled to neighboring Malaysia in 2004 when Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for alleged insurgent-related activities.
“The key ideological figure is Sapae-ing Baso. Despite his age, his ideology has a strong influence on his disciples who are active in the south,” retired army Lt. Gen. Nanthadej Meksawat, former chief of special operation in southern Thailand, told BenarNews in March 2015 before Thailand opened informal talks with the rebels, which have been facilitated by Malaysia.
BRN is one of several southern rebel groups and factions represented by MARA Patani, a panel representing insurgents in exploratory peace talks with the Thai government. But not all of them – especially hardcore BRN members – are on board with efforts to negotiate an end to a war that has killed more than 6,700 people in the Deep South since 2004.
On Tuesday, Malaysia-based MARA spokesman Abu Hafiz Al-Hakim issued a statement conveying condolences to the family of Sapae-ing, who was known in Malaysia as Shafi’I bin Abdul Rahman.
“We mourn the loss of a fighter ace and education leader who has contributed and sacrificed to religion, race and nation,” Abu Hafiz said. “We pray that his soul be blessed by Allah Almighty and placed in the higher tomb with the prophets, martyrs and righteous people. Ameen.”
Full story: BenarNews
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