Thai authorities have agreed to hold peace talks with Muslim militant leaders based in neighboring Malaysia to help ease nearly a decade of unrest in southern Thailand.
Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary general of Thailand's National Security Council, and a Malaysian-based senior representative of the National Revolution Front signed an agreement aimed at starting the talks. No schedule was immediately given for future meetings.
The agreement was signed in Kuala Lumpur ahead of a meeting later Thursday between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Thai counterpart, Yingluck Shinawatra.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand's three southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency erupted in 2004.
Malaysia, whose northern states border Thailand's south, is acting as a facilitator to bring some of the insurgents to peace talks.