There was no insurgency-backed violence in Thailand’s Deep South for the month of April, the first time in sixteen years that there were no insurgency attacks taking place in a given month.
Thailand’s three southern Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat have been embroiled in a separatist insurgency for the better part of two decades. Over 7,000 people have been killed by violence and many more injured during that time.
However, the coronavirus outbreak has prompted an ad-hoc ceasefire between the Thai government forces and the separatist.
One of the militant groups (Barisan Revolusi Nasional) operating in the area released a statement on Friday saying that the “cessation of all activities” is “to provide humanitarian access to all parties to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic.”
The group said that the ceasefire was to remain as long as the BRN was not attacked by the Thai government, according to documents shared by Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk
#BRN #separatists issue a statement reaffirming unilateral #ceasefire to support humanitarian work during #COVID19 #outbreak. It has been a month without #insurgent attacks in #Thailand’s Deep South—first time in 16 years. No reciprocal response from the #Thai government. pic.twitter.com/mBhlev1N75— Sunai (@sunaibkk) May 2, 2020
The BRN also criticized the government for continuing house searches, arbitrary arrests, and DNA collection.
“We call upon the [Royal Thai Government] to reciprocate and prioritize Covid-19 prevention over war at this time.”
The Thai government could not be reached for comments on the matter. Calls to the Internal Security Operations Command were not returned.
Peace talks on pause
Peace talks between the BRN and the Thai Government have progressed in recent months but have been derailed by the coronavirus outbreak.
In March, both sides met in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur for face-to-face meetings six years after the BRN’s last dialogue with the government.
Talks were described as constructive and were focused on reducing the levels of violence.
However, the outbreak of coronavirus in Thailand has seen the government place its priorities elsewhere as lockdown measures were put in place to curtail the virus’ spread.
Sources within the Thai army tell Thai Enquirer that right now the army and the Ministry of Public Health were focused on containing the violence in the south which is the site of the largest outbreak outside of Bangkok.
“The insurgency and peace talks can wait until after we have this under control,” one high ranking source within the army told Thai Enquirer on the condition of anonymity.[Correction: Original article stated that there was no insurgency-related violence but has been corrected to insurgent attacks. The Thai government has continued some operations in the area.]