A new chance for peace with Thai insurgents?

One of the most interesting and overlooked developments to emerge from last week’s military coup in Thailand concerns the general now in charge of the country and the Muslim insurgency in the southern part of the country. Nearly 1,700 Thais have died over the past two and a half years as a result of fighting ...

606897_Thailandtank5.jpg
606897_Thailandtank5.jpg

One of the most interesting and overlooked developments to emerge from last week's military coup in Thailand concerns the general now in charge of the country and the Muslim insurgency in the southern part of the country. Nearly 1,700 Thais have died over the past two and a half years as a result of fighting in the south, but there may be hope that, despite cracking down on the press and banning political activities, Thailand's current military leaders may be more amenable to negotiations with insurgents than former Prime Minister Thaksin was. FP spoke recently with John Brandon of the Asia Foundation about the political future of Thailand and he had this to say:

Everyone except Thaksin and his cronies thought the [response to the insurgency] has been handled badly. A Muslim separatist said the other day that he thought the coup was a good thing, and I think that's because Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, the head of the military council who led the coup, is a Thai Muslim from the south. [The insurgents] feel that he will be able to work with Muslim insurgents in the south and create a strategy that promotes peace and security.

In fact, after Gen. Sondhi was appointed head of the armed forces last year, his first major spat with PM Thaksin came when Sondhi's proposal for talks with insurgents was rejected. So, will we see a move to negotiations soon? Greater autonomy for the south?

One of the most interesting and overlooked developments to emerge from last week’s military coup in Thailand concerns the general now in charge of the country and the Muslim insurgency in the southern part of the country. Nearly 1,700 Thais have died over the past two and a half years as a result of fighting in the south, but there may be hope that, despite cracking down on the press and banning political activities, Thailand’s current military leaders may be more amenable to negotiations with insurgents than former Prime Minister Thaksin was. FP spoke recently with John Brandon of the Asia Foundation about the political future of Thailand and he had this to say:

Everyone except Thaksin and his cronies thought the [response to the insurgency] has been handled badly. A Muslim separatist said the other day that he thought the coup was a good thing, and I think that’s because Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, the head of the military council who led the coup, is a Thai Muslim from the south. [The insurgents] feel that he will be able to work with Muslim insurgents in the south and create a strategy that promotes peace and security.

In fact, after Gen. Sondhi was appointed head of the armed forces last year, his first major spat with PM Thaksin came when Sondhi’s proposal for talks with insurgents was rejected. So, will we see a move to negotiations soon? Greater autonomy for the south?

Be sure to check out the rest of this week’s Seven Questions with John Brandon. He gives his predictions for the next interim prime minister of Thailand and explains why this coup probably made no one happier than the oppressive leaders in neighboring Burma.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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