In a historic press conference, the representatives of MARA PATANI( Majlis Syura Patani -Patani consultative council)spoke toThai reporters at the Premiera Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 27, 2015 to lay out their aims and expectations after wrapping up talks there with negotiators from Thailand’s military government.
The Mara Patani is a new umbrella group of six freedom movements, consisting of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), three factions of the Patani Liberation Organisation (Pulo), the Gerakan Mujahidee (GMIP) and Barisan Islam Pembebasan Patani (BIPP)
“We formed Mara Patani to make our struggle a peaceful one,” said Awang Jabal, chairman of Mara Patani, an umbrella organization. “The use of violence and weapons has to go through steps to end violence from both sides. It depends on mutual understanding and trust.”
The Mara Patani delegation was comprised of representatives from the six groups which have been struggling for the secession of Thailand’s three southern border provinces for the past decade. Awang Jabat representing the BRN and the head of Mara Patani , said he invited Thai media so they could “understand the true ways of Mara Patani, which are transparent matters,” and to help support a dialogue to bring peace to the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat
Sukree, a representative e of BRN said Mara Patani submitted three preliminary proposals as a condition for peace. Firstly, the Thai government must place the negotiations on the national agenda, which would bring them to the parliament, thus ensuring changes in Thailand’s government would not disrupt the process, as happened the last time talks were brokered. They also asked for recognition of Mara Patani as the legitimate negotiating party and legal immunity for its negotiating leaders.
An array of shadowy militant groups are currently battling to separate the provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala from Bangkok’s rule. The Muslim-majority region, known as the Deep South, was an independent Islamic nation called Patani before it was annexed by Siam in the early 20th century. Nearly 6,500 people have died since the latest wave of secessionist violence broke out in January 2004, according to data compiled officially by rights groups.
In 2013 the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra set up a dialogue with the BRN. However, the discussion was never declared a national agenda – as demanded by BRN at the time – and the two parties failed to reach any substantial conclusion. Issues about autonomy and possible independence of Patani were hardly discussed. Further dialogue was quitted when anti-government protests broke out in Bangkok in November 2013. The military later seized power from in a coup d’etat in May 2014.
The military junta later expressed its willingness to restart talks and on Tuesday dispatched a team of negotiators to the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.Speaking in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, Mr Awang stressed the umbrella group's main purpose was to "ensure the rights and interests of the people of Patani are heard, considered, discussed and fought for, consistently, systematically and concretely, it's about self-determination, not secession or separation," said Mr Awang.
Meanwhile, Thailand Prime Minister's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said he believes the peace discussion by the joint working group has made significant progress.