KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Thai government and Muslim separatist negotiators said Thursday they hope to curb violence in insurgency-wracked southern provinces during the upcoming Muslim fasting month.
The two sides issued a statement after holding a round of peace talks in Malaysia seeking an "expression of sincerity, goodwill and trust" during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that begins in July.
An Islamic insurgency that erupted in 2004 has killed more than 5,000 people in Thailand's three southernmost, Muslim-dominated provinces. Attacks occur almost daily despite the start of peace talks this year.
The militants mainly target security forces and teachers, who are perceived as representatives of the government of predominantly Buddhist Thailand.
Terms and conditions for ensuring peace during Ramadan will be made public as soon as possible, according to the joint statement released after the one-day talks in Kuala Lumpur.
"When we commit to peace, we must trust each other. This is the first step," Nipat Thonglek, a senior member of the Thai government negotiating team, told reporters.
It is unclear whether the rebel representatives involved in the talks would be able to completely eliminate violence, as the insurgency is thought to be highly decentralized, with local units free to choose targets and campaigns.
Rebel negotiators plan next to provide Thai authorities with detailed explanations of their five preliminary demands, including allowing other Southeast Asian countries and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to observe the peace talks.
Subsequent meetings will be held after Ramadan, according to the statement.