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SOUTH’S SAFETY ZONES WILL NOT BECOME REALITY IF VIOLENCE PERSISTS – THAI PM

BANGKOK, Thailand Hope for "Safety Zones" in southern Thailand will not become a reality if militant groups are unable to stop violence in the specially-designated areas, said Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday.

He made it clear that efforts to create the special zones in the southern provinces not only depended on the government but also whether the opposing side could guarantee a violence-free area.

"We always want safety but it depends on the other party, whether they are able to guarantee (no violence). The government obviously will not open fire first," he told the media after chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting here yesterday.

The government according to him, do not want anyone to lose their lives or be wounded as a result of the conflict in southern Thailand.

Prayut was asked on the latest developments on Malaysia-facilitated peace talks between the government and militant groups, especially related to efforts in establishing "Safety ZoneS" in districts in southern Thailand.

Recent media reports had indicated that both sides were close to reaching an historic agreement on the establishment of the Safety Zones.

The militant groups was represented by MARA Patani in the peace talks, although the government had refrained from officially recognising the group and instead referred to it as " Party B" or "party with different views."

The prime minister who initiated the latest round of southern Thai peace talks after seizing power in a coup more than three years ago also said that the negotiations had achieved progress but further success of the talks depended on proposals by both sides.

On the future of peace talks post-general election, which many expect to be happen this year or early next year, Prayut said, it would be the responsibility of the next elected government.

Since 2004, armed hostilities in southern Thailand, especially in the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have claimed the lives of about 7,000 mostly civilian victims, according to a non-governmental group monitoring the conflict.

Source: NAM News Network

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