New agreement reached by Thailand and Muslim separatists to end violence

After a year-long hiatus, talks have resumed in Malaysia in an effort to bring an end to the conflict in southern Thailand, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 people since 2004. The government of Thailand and Muslim separatist rebels have agreed “in principle” on an updated roadmap to end the long-standing fighting.

Malaysian facilitator Zulkifli Zainal Abidin announced the breakthrough, stating that both sides have agreed to an “improved” peace plan. The dialogue had been stalled for the past year due to the Thai election, but the recent discussions in Kuala Lumpur have paved the way for further talks over the next two months to finalize the details of the plan. The goal is to reach an agreement on a ceasefire covering the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the Thai festival of Songkran.

Peace talks facilitated by Malaysia have been ongoing since 2013, but little progress has been made until now. The facilitator expressed optimism, stating that both parties are willing to sign the peace plan as soon as the technical teams agree.

The violence in Thailand’s southern provinces has been brutal, with separatists carrying out drive-by shootings and bombings. Malay Muslims in these provinces, which were annexed by Thailand in 1909, accuse the security forces of routine abuses and allege mistreatment as second-class citizens. The Thai government’s recent appointment of the first civilian head of the talks indicates a potential shift in the approach to resolving the conflict.

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