A suspect alleged to be involved in a car bomb attack at a Big C supermarket is escorted by Thai police and security forces in Pattani province, southern Thailand. At least 59 people, several among them children, were injured after two bombs believed to be detonated by the suspected separatist insurgent went off at a supermarket in the restive Muslim majority province of Pattani on May 9. EPA

MALAYSIA and Thailand have come a long way in enjoying a good and harmonious relationship, which has spurred economic wellbeing between the two countries, especially for those living along the Malaysian-Thai border.

Issues that may cause conflicts between neighbours can be resolved at the grassroots and regional levels. Both countries have enjoyed tremendous cooperation through bilateral meetings.

It is laudable that Malaysia, as Thailand’s closest neighbour in the south, is facilitating the peace process in southern Thailand.

Sadly, the conflict has claimed 6,000 lives. Malaysia has been arranging meetings between the Thai government and Mara Patani Consultative Council.

However, even with the peace process under way, the killings of innocent lives are ongoing.

The question that begs an answer is where do they go wrong or are they talking and negotiating with the right group to end this conflict.

I served in southern Thailand in the early 1970s as a Special Branch operative under the then Regional Border Committee Office fighting the Communist Party of Malaya threat.

At that time, there was already a conflict between the so-called Pulo members and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), which was fighting for separation from the kingdom of Thailand.

There were skirmishes and encounters of firepower between the separatists and government forces. There were killings of innocent lives then, but not as great as what is happening now with the bombings in factories, buildings, schools and even the district police headquarters and airport in Hat Yai.

The leaders of Pulo or BRN are now old and in their twilight years; and most have fled overseas. These leaders, in my opinion, do not command the underlings of the current breed of fighters.

The current breed is young and trained in Pakistan, Syria or elsewhere. In light of the current scenario, are we talking and negotiating with the right persons/leaders to end this conflict in southern Thailand ?

If we are talking to the right persons in the peace process, I strongly believe that at the very least, the bombings and killings should have scaled down, but, sadly, it is not to be.

The peace roadmap should be re-evaluated. Identify the right persons for the next roundtable talk. A peaceful southern Thailand will surely benefit the peoples of both sides of the border.

DATUK WEE BENG GEE, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

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