The reactions to last week's historic decision by the government to sign an agreement with a separatist group were notable, and perhaps telling. From the South, where any progress will be felt directly, the response was mostly positive. From Bangkok, particularly the media and Democrat Party, it ranged from cynical to negative.
It is far from clear why influential voices felt that an agreement signed on Thursday would influence the conflict on Friday. When National Security Council chief Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut shook hands with Ustaz Hassan Taib, it brought the southern conflict into brave new territory. But neither the Thai official nor the Malaysian chief of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) raised expectations of peace, let alone an immediate halt to hostilities.
First, it is strange that anyone can seriously call the Kuala Lumpur pact a "peace agreement". The document itself refers only to a consensus between Bangkok and a Muslim scholars' group that there should be talks about how peace might come about. Lt Gen Paradorn and Mr Taib agreed to a rational discussion of each other's views. No cease-fire or armistice was mentioned. This first signed document between Bangkok and separatists was a classic agreement to "talk and fight". Hundreds of large wars and small conflicts have ended on the basis of exactly such an agreement. However, not one has morphed into full-blown peace in 48 hours.
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