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Ramadan overture raises peace stakes in Thailand's troubled south

Lack of violence could be litmus test of sides' willingness for political deal

A Muslim man reads the Koran during the first day of Ramadan at the Islamic Centre of Thailand in Bangkok on March 23. A Ramadan cease-fire in Thailand's south could get peace talks moving.   © AP

BANGKOK -- With the decadeslong dispute between the Thai government and Malay-Muslim separatists reaching a breakthrough at the negotiating table, attention this week turned to the battle lines, where observers wonder whether troops on each side can hold to a cease-fire during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month when devotees fast during daylight hours.

That cease-fire is only a possible one. The stakes for an unofficial Ramadan truce were raised earlier this week when the Thai Peace Dialogue Panel, the team of national security officials representing the government at the "peace dialogues" with the rebels' representatives, called for a "violence-free Ramadan." The call has been relayed to the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the largest rebel group in Thailand's southern region, an official statement says.

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