Global Islamic group praises Thai peace efforts in the South


3The head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation praised the Thai government’s peace efforts in the Deep South, where a decade-long insurgency continues to take lives, and met in Bangkok with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who said his government is willing to work with the Organization.

The Prime Minister also condemned the terrorist attacks in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. “I wish to assure you that the Thai government stands ready to support, in any possible way, Indonesia in this difficult time,” Prayut said. “On behalf of the Royal Thai Government and the Thai people, I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to you and, through you, to the families of those who have lost their loved ones in this tragic incident.”

The attacks, which have been attributed to Islamic State, took the lives of seven people and wounded 23 others. Thai authorities have increased security at Indonesia’s embassy in Bangkok and pledged to more closely share intelligence with their counterparts in the region. General ThawipNetniyom, the head of Thailand’s National Security Council, said that Islamic State militants were attempting to establish cells in countries in Southeast Asia.

No evidence of Islamic State activity or recruitment has been detected in Thailand. Nonetheless, violence by Islamic militants in the Muslim-majority Deep South has cost over 6,500 lives since 2004. Although the number of killings decreased last year, an end to the violence does not appear to be imminent.

Thailand has taken a three-pronged approach to the situation the Deep South: increasing security, supporting economic and cultural development, and engaging in peace talks with representatives of militant groups. The shadowy and fragmented nature of the militants, however, has left some officials wondering if negotiators truly represent all the insurgent groups.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which says it represents 57 nations and is the “collective voice of the Muslim world,” has at times been critical of Thailand’s approach to the violence. But Iyad Ameen Madani, the Organization’s secretary general, voiced support for the Thai government’s attempts to find a negotiated settlement through peace talks after meeting with Prime Minister Prayut at Government House.

Madani met with the Prime Minister after traveling to Malaysia to meet with government officials there and negotiators for the militants. Malaysia has been hosting and facilitating the peace talks because it is more trusted by the militants, who are ethnic Malay Muslims.

Although Thailand is over 90 percent Buddhist, Buddhism is not a state religion and all religions have been guaranteed freedom and equality under every recent constitution.

While the Prime Minister said his government is willing to work with the Organization on a broad spectrum of issues, Thailand would make its own decisions on security and how to deal with the violence.