The news that Thailand has agreed to formal Malaysian facilitation of a dialogue process to end the long conflict in southern Thailand is surely welcome. Most immediately it reflects that both the Thai government and all its parts, as well as the shadowy insurgent movement and all its parts agree that Malaysia needs to be part of the solution to the conflict that has raged for nine long years and cost more than 5,000 lives.
Armed soldiers providing security to school children are a common sight in the restive South. Malaysia’s role as mediator in peace talks between the Thai government and the insurgent movement has given fresh hope that normal life in the Muslim-dominated deep South will return. AFP
In fact, the last time the two sides met officially in January last year, they agreed that the next step towards resolving the problem rested on defining a role for Malaysia in the process. A lot of politics intervened and held things up, but this step has now been taken. It should now be possible to move towards a settlement of the conflict based on dialogue and compromise.
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