Thailand has named a new chief negotiator in stalled talks aimed at resolving a decades-long separatist conflict in its southern border region, while a panel representing insurgent groups has expanded, officials said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha confirmed the change days ahead of the first visit to Bangkok by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who in August had named a new facilitator for the Kuala Lumpur-brokered talks. Mahathir, who began his latest term in office in May, is scheduled to visit Thailand on Oct. 24-25, officials said.
The new Thai negotiator, Udomchai Thammasarorat, is a former commander of an army division that oversees southern Thailand, Prayuth said.
“He will work in line with government policy. We stick to government policy as the principle of the peace talks – as a way to solve violence in the Deep South,” the junta chief told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Bangkok.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the panel negotiating on behalf of southern rebels, MARA Patani, said it had expanded to include three new groups and planned to present a new proposal after nationwide polls next year.
“We will not forward the demands unless there is a new democratic Thai government being formed after the Thai general election that is expected to be held in February next year,” MARA spokesman Abu Hafez Al-Hakim told BenarNews in Malaysia.
Because of the expansion the umbrella body has rebranded itself as MARA Patani Plus, he added, but declined to identify the three new groups that have come on board.
Full story: BenarNews
Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Nontarat Phaicahroen, and Muzliza Mustafa
Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
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