07/07/2013 | Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), met with the Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra in Istanbul on 6 July 2013. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and other senior government officials were also present in the meeting.
The discussions focused on the situation in Southern Thailand and the relations between the government and the Muslim communities in that region.
The Thai Prime Minister expressed to the Secretary General her governments desire to engage positively with the OIC on the issue of the Southern Border Provinces and emphasized her wish to secure peace and stability in that region.
The Secretary General thanked the Prime Minister for her expressions of good will and encouraged the Thai authorities to accelerate the ongoing process of confidence building measures and to address the root causes of the problem through a comprehensive approach based on empowering the population of Southern provinces to assume the responsibilities of their internal affairs through a system that allows residents to exercise their cultural and linguistic specificities and manage their natural resources under the full respect for the country’s constitution and territorial integrity.
He further welcomed the steps of the Government of Thailand, in cooperation with Malaysia, to start a constructive dialogue with (BRN), one of the opposition factions, in order to develop a road map to resolve the existing problems through dialogue and he expressed the hope that in future this dialogue will expand and be more inclusive so that other organizations and groups representing Muslims in Southern Thailand can participate.
The Thai Prime Mınister informed that following the common understanding expressed in the Joint Press Statement issued after the Secretary General’s visit to Thailand in 2007 and the statement following the 2012 visit of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, the government was in the process of lifting the emergency law in 5 territories following a process of consultation with the local communities. Progress had also been made in the field of education where government supported schools and religious learning centers catering to the local population had been established in the South earlier this year. The Prime Minister further reiterated the Government’s desire to engage in peaceful solutions to the problems of the South and to obtain support of the OIC in that regard. It was also noted that after several meetings the Government had agreed with armed insurgent groups in the South for a ceasefire to take place during the Holy month of Ramadan.
The Secretary General welcomed these developments as a positive step forward and expressed the willingness of the OIC to contribute to the process of confidence building, dialogue and economic development in the region through the support of the Islamic Development Bank and other OIC organs and agencies.
The Secretary General reiterated the position of the OIC to support all peaceful initiatives that guaranteed the human rights of citizens and developed mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation for the betterment of all communities in both Thailand and the wider region.
The Prime Minister thanked the Secretary General for his support and assured him of the government’s interest in consolidation of relations between the OIC and Thailand to further deepen cooperation to ensure peace and security in the country and the region as a whole.