BANGKOK: The deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), Chatchai Bangchuad has been appointed as the new head of Thailand’s Peace Dialogue Panel to facilitate the peace process in southern Thailand.

His appointment as chief negotiator was announced in the Royal Gazette today.

Chatchai replaces General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, whose tenure ended following the formation of the new government.

Besides Chatchai, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin also appointed the members for the dialogue panel.

Chatchai has worked along the peace dialogue panel and security affairs teams for years prior to his appointment.

Malaysia is the facilitator for the peace dialogue process in ending the decades-old conflict that flared up in January 2004 in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and parts of Songkhla.

Former chief of defence force Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin has been appointed as the new Malaysian chief facilitator effective Jan 1, this year, replacing former Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor whose service ended on Dec 31, 2022.

Discussions were held between the government and insurgent groups since 2013 but the talks came to a grinding halt when the army took control in Thailand a year later.

Talks resumed without the involvement of the main parties, including Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

Consultations between the Thai government and the BRN resumed in 2019 with concrete and significant progress being made, raising hopes for an end to violence in Thailand’s southern region.

However, BRN was absent at the last dialogue that took place in Kuala Lumpur in March, prior to the Thailand’s election in May.

Statistics by the independent monitoring group Deep South Watch indicate an unrelenting cycle of violence in southern Thailand, starting in 2004 in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives so far. –Bernama

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