Kuala Lumpur: Thailand on Thursday signed a historic deal with Muslim rebels active in the country`s restive south, agreeing to hold talks in a bid to end the nine-year insurgency that has claimed over 5,000 lives.
The deal, brokered by Malaysia, was signed here between Thai authorities and the militant Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of several groups operating in Thailand.
Malaysia has been acting as a facilitator for the negotiations between the Thai government and the Muslim rebels.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the deal after talks with visiting Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck said Thailand "wished to see a lasting solution in the southern border provinces", where the nine-year revolt by a number of shadowy groups has claimed over 5,500 lives.
"We need to move forward as soon as possible," she told reporters here.
There has been a recent spike in attacks along predominantly Buddhist Thai border with the Muslim-majority Malaysia, where the nine-year insurgency has claimed more than 5,500 lives.
It is the first formal engagement between the government and insurgents.
The "general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace" was signed by Lieutenant-General Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary general of Thailand`s National Security Council, and Hassan Taib of the BRN.
"It`s another attempt by the government to tackle the unrest. It does not mean the peace agreement will end the ongoing violence," Pattanatabutr said.
Barisan Revolusi Nasional in Bahasa Malaysia means "National Revolutionary Front". It refers to the separatists` concept that the three southernmost provinces of Thailand and part of Songkhla represent a distinct nation.
Hassan Taib, "chief of the BRN liaison office in Malaysia" told reporters, "Allah willing, we will do our best to solve the problem. We will tell our people to work together to solve the problems," he said.
Malaysia had also brokered a peace agreement between the Philippines and its largest Muslim rebel group last year.