A number of Thai Muslim exile groups have reportedly sought observer status at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Yemen later this month in a bid to gain international standing. Of significance is the request by separatist umbrella organization, Bersatu, to participate in the meeting to raise its concerns.
However, the Thai government scored a victory in getting the chair of OIC, Malaysia, to reassure Thailand that the Muslim separatist issue would not be brought up at the OIC meeting. Malaysian Foreign Minister, Mr Syed Hamid reaffirmed Malaysia’s respect for Thailand’s sovereignty and regarded the issue as Thailand’s internal affair. The just-concluded week-long OIC fact-finding trip to Thailand’s south was an important step towards building trust and understanding of the situation in the restive region.
Thailand is an observer of the OIC. Using the OIC’s principle of not supporting separatism, Thailand has argued that Bersatu was not qualified to join the meeting. Thai foreign minister, Mr Kantathi Suphamongkhon, who would be leading a delegation to the OIC meeting, however, promised to explain the Thai government’s efforts to solve the problems in the south even if the issue of southern Thailand would not be on the official agenda of the meeting. This is seen by many as Thailand’s efforts to improve its image in the Muslim world after all that have happened in the past year.
* Separatist talk won’t be held in Yemen (The Nation, 11 June 2005)
* OIC panel says unrest local issue – Surakiart (Bangkok Post, 10 June 2005)