Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday rejected the idea of making a Malay dialect the second official language in three southern provinces that border Malaysia and have been gripped by a Muslim insurgency.
"Thai must be the official language," Thaksin told reporters.
"But it's fine for the local people to use another language in their personal communication."
The comments were the first by Thaksin since the National Reconciliation Commission, a body created to find solutions to deadly violence in the predominantly ethnic Malay region, urged the government earlier this month to shun military responses and focus instead on eliminating the root causes of the conflict.
The residents of Thailand's three southernmost provinces -- the only provinces dominated by Muslims in the Buddhist country -- have long complained of mistreatment by authorities and discrimination in jobs and education.
More than 1,300 people have been killed in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces since January 2004 in violence the government blames on an Islamic separatist insurgency.
In a long-awaited report, the commission recommended that the government hold a dialogue with Muslim militants, strengthen the participation of southerners in resolving conflicts and ensure the fair distribution of national resources.
It suggested that the government use Yawi, a Malay dialect widely spoken among southern Thai Muslims, as a "working" language to facilitate communication.
Thaksin's comment Monday was the latest dismissal of the idea. Influential former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, a top adviser to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, said the idea of a second official language was "inadmissible."
"Everyone who lives in Thailand must use Thai as the official language. This is not discrimination," Prem said.