BANGKOK, March 3 — All sides in southern Thailand desire reconciliation – and its aura can be felt everywhere.
This was the conclusion made by the Malaysian Government’s Chief Facilitator for the Peace Dialogue Process Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin following his four-day working visit to Southern Thailand.
Zulkifli said the visit — armed with a mandate from the Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — was to listen, build understanding, offer views, and facilitate in any way, in order to drive efforts to reach a consensus between all parties involved.
“Overall, my (working) visit has been successful. From what I can conclude, all parties want reconciliation. I can feel the aura of reconciliation everywhere.
“Hopefully, my working visit as the Chief Facilitator will create close cooperation to make peace negotiations a success,” he said in a statement here today.
A total of 33 programmes were held during the visit to three provinces in southern Thailand — Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat — which ended today.
Zulkifli had held meetings with various parties such as the academia, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, the Religious Council, and representatives of Buddhist adherents.
“I have listened, understood, and built confidence that their voices will be heard and brought to the negotiation table,” he said, adding that it is a platform where all parties can be involved in the peace dialogue process in Southern Thailand.
During this working visit, Zulkifli said he had delivered a message that ‘peace belongs to all’.
“Malaysia is always committed to mediating between the Thai Government and the Patani community to resolve the conflict fairly, comprehensively and permanently,” he said.
This is Zulkifli’s first working visit after being appointed as Malaysia’s new facilitator — replacing Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor — for the peace dialogue process in southern Thailand effective January 1, 2023.
Now in its 10th year, the Southern Thailand Peace Dialogue process between the Thai Government and the militant groups began when the then-prime minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, asked Malaysia to be the mediator in resolving the conflict in Southern Thailand.
Following that, a General Consensus between the Government of Thailand and the National Revolutionary Front (BRN) was signed on February 28, 2013.
Meanwhile, Zulkifli said the joint comprehensive plan towards peace (JCPP) as a roadmap for 2023-2024 is the key to security in southern Thailand.
Zulkifli said the JCPP, which was agreed to in the 6th Official Meeting of the Peace Dialogue Process in Kuala Lumpur, has brought a ray of hope to resolve the regional conflict.
In that regard, he hoped that the three substantive matters — namely the reduction of violence, public consultation, and the political solution that had been agreed upon before — would be implemented.
“If the technical meeting goes smoothly, the public consultation can start next year. However, all of this is subject to future decisions and meetings,” he said.