A new chapter in the attempt to restore peace in the deep South
The joint meeting at the Government House on September 18 between government and Democrat MPs to exchange views on the government’s handling of the unrest situation in the deep South represents a new chapter in Thai politics that the country’s two opposing political camps have joined hands to tackle the southern violence which has dragged on for almost nine years.
The government MPs were represented by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra while the Democrats were led by Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, the party leader.
Similar meeting of the two political camps took place on October 11 last year at the government’s flood relief operations centre at Don Meuang during the height of the flood crisis. But there was no real cooperation between them as the City Hall which is controlled by the Democrats and the government’s flood relief operations centre were engaged in childish turf conflict.
During the meeting, the Democrats proposed a list of recommendations with the most contentious one being the dissolution of the newly-created Bangkok-based command centre to resolve the unrest situation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa which was recommended by the Internal Security Operations Command.
Democrat party leader Abhisit noted that the command centre which was approved by the cabinet on August 8 was a duplication of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) and also the full structure of the new command centre is not yet completed.
Isoc, however, has viewed SBPAC as a parallel organization causing management disunity in the handling of southern problems. It remains to be seen whether the government will accept this proposal of the Democrats or not.
Other recommendations from the Democrats include.
- Lifting of the martial law and emergency decree which have been the subject of many complaints from the local people, especially a clause in the emergency decree which empowers authorities to detain without charges a suspect for up to 37 days. The Democrats suggested that the detention period should be reduced as much as possible and the Internal Security Act should replace the two special laws.
- Members of the security forces which include soldiers, policemen, paramilitary rangers and armed volunteers should be southerners. Troops from the other regions should be withdrawn and replaced by troops of the south-based 4th army region.
- People in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla where militants have been active should be encouraged to join government services. However, their recruitment must be done with cautilon to prevent militants and their sympathizers from infiltrating the services.
- The SBPAC should be the lead organization to spearhead development works in the region, to ensure justice and to oversee rehabilitation programme for people affected by violence. Meanwhile, Isoc should be the lead organization for security affairs. The SBPAC chief must be resourceful and understanding of the southern problems and must not be just a political tool.
- Victims of Krue Se mosque attack should be equally compensated like victims from the other incidents who were promised 7.5 million baht in compensation each. The Krue Se victims were each promised four million baht in compensation. The Democrats have voiced opposition to any proposal for a special administration zone for the restive region such as the Pattani Maha Nakorn special administion zone or the election of governors in the four southernmost provinces. They have contended that decentralization of administration has already been put into practice in the region with the election of members of Provincial Administration Organisation, Tambon Administration Organisation and municipalities.
The Democrats also supported peace talks with militant groups and the use of Section 21 of the Internal Security Act to grant amnesty to defectors so that they will be able to return to their families and to pursue a normal life.
Caption : The joint meeting at the Government House on September 18 between government and Democrat MPs
Thanks : Photo by The Nation photographer