Bahrain Urges Thailand To Keep Conciliatory Approach

Bahrain has pledged to assist Thailand is solving
its security problem in the kingdom’s majority-Muslim deep South while
urging the government to persist in its newly-adopted conciliatory
approach to the insurgency, media reports said Sunday.

Bahrain Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa met
with Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram on Saturday in Manama,
in official talks that focused on Thailand’s ongoing conflict in its
three southernmost provinces – the former Islamic sultanate of Pattani
– where more than 2,100 people have died in an escalating separatist
struggle since Januaray, 2004.

“The Bahraini leader expressed confidence that Thailand will
resolve problems in the troubled provinces and that his country is
prepared to assist because Bahrain realized that Thailand granted
freedom to all religions equally,” reported the state-run Thai News
Agency (TNA), citing Nitya.

The Bahraini prime minister also urged Thailand continue resolving
problems through “reconciliatory means” and that Thailand should
“always remember you have got a friend” in Bahrain, which is expected
to open an embassy in Bangkok later this year as its only embassy in
this region.

Nitya said Bahrain will explain to members of the Organisation of
the Islamic Conference (OIC) the problems in the kingdom’s southern
border provinces are not a religious conflict and that the current Thai
government was pursuing the most appropriate approach to resolve the

Thailand came under international criticism for its tough tactics
in cracking down on the southern insurgency in 2004, when the
government was still under former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was
ousted by a coup in September last year.

The current administration under Thai Prime Minister Surayud
Chulanont has adopted a more conciliatory apporoach to the insurgency,
which has simmered on and off for more than six decades.

More than 80 per cent of the 2 million people living in Thailand’s
deep South – Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces – are Muslim of
ethnic Malay decent who have closer cultural affinities with
neighbouring Malaysia than with the predominantly Buddhist Thai

The region was an independent Islamic sultanate known as Pattani
for hundreds of years before it was conquered by Bangkok in 1786. The
border provinces came under direct rule of the Thai bureaucracy in

A separatist struggle has periodically flamed on and off in the
region, fuelled by the local population’s sense of religious and
cultural alienation from Thailand.

© 2007 DPA



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