BANGKOK (AP) — A Muslim separatist group has suspended peace talks with the Thai government aimed at ending nearly a decade of violence in southern Thailand because authorities have not responded to its demands, officials said Thursday.
The National Revolution Front told Thai coordinators that it was awaiting a response before resuming negotiations, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok said.
Pracha insisted the group has not called off the dialogue, saying that it considers the talks essential to the peace process.
“If we stop the talks, our brothers and sisters in the south would be frightened,” he told reporters. “And without the dialogue, the only working mission (in the south) would be military operations. Plus, the talks are regarded as the solution to the conflict by international standards.”
The militant group, also known as BRN, the initials for its Malay-language name, demanded in April that Thai authorities free prisoners related to the insurgency and stop arresting new suspects. The group has also asked for international organizations to be allowed to observe the talks, and for Thai authorities to recognize it as a “liberation” group, not a “separatist” group.
The government signed a breakthrough deal with the insurgents in February, agreeing to hold talks to ease nearly a decade of violence in the country’s Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces that has killed more than 5,000 people.