JAKARTA - Representatives from the Government of South Thailand
visited Indonesia on Friday and met Indonesian Minister of Religious
Affairs Suryadharma Ali to discuss on religious cooperation. They expect
Indonesia to deepen its role to create peace in their region.
"We talked about promising cooperation, particularly on religious
matters, such as education, culture, and hajj," Ali said on Friday. He
said that South Thailand was looking for inspiration from Indonesia to
create peace in their region.
"I hope their visit can broaden their understandings about Islam in Indonesia," he said.
The Head of South Thailand Representatives, Tawee SodSong, said that
South Thailand was rather similar with Indonesia in terms of
nationality, tribes and religions. About 80 percent of its 1.7 million
population are Muslim. He admitted that South Thailand was astonished
with Indonesian people who could live together in peace.
"We hope cooperation on education, religion and economy with Indonesia can bring peace to South Thailand," SodSong said.
Meanwhile, suspected rebels in South Thailand killed Deputy Governor
of Yala Province, Isra Thongthawat, and another state official with a
roadside bomb on Friday, a week after the government held first formal
talks with a rebel group to try to end years of violence.
Isra becomes the most senior civilian official to be killed among the
three provinces since the insurgency resurfaced in the south of
Buddhist-majority Thailand in 2004 after simmering for decades. At least
29 people have died in the three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala
and Narathiwat since February 28 when the Barisan Revolusi Nasional
(BRN) rebels agreed to hold talks. More than 5,300 people have died
since January 2004.
Security officials say the BRN is the main insurgent organization
behind the violence but acknowledge that other armed groups operate in
the three provinces and may not agree even with the idea of talks. The
government has ruled out autonomy or self-rule, and some analysts remain
pessimistic the talks will do much to curb the violence.
"Hostilities on the ground show no sign of cessation," Sunai Phasuk
of Human Rights Watch said. "Authorities need to fine-tune the peace
efforts by moving beyond talking to de-radicalising the situation on the
ground starting with trying to understand the factors that galvanize
the militants," Phasuk added.