Return of civilian rule in Jana and Na Thawee districts
Two of the four "dangerous" districts of Songkhla province have returned to civilian rule as the initial part of an ambitious plan for the military to gradually phase out of the restive deep South in order to allow the civilians to take over the responsibility of security maintenance.
The formal handover of the responsibility to maintain peace and order in Jana and Na Thawee districts from the military to the civilian local government took place at Na Thawee Vocational College on January 8. The ceremony was presided over by Maj-Gen Noppawong Suravichai, commander of Songkhla Task Force, and Songkhla Governor Krisda Boonrach, and witnessed by members of the police, army and local governments as well as Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders.
Jana and Na Thawee districts were chosen as the pilot zone for the return to civilian rule from military rule because security situation in the districts has improved satisfactorily thanks to active participation of the people’s sector in the maintenance of peace at village and community levels.
Governor Krisda said that the military and the people’s sector have been working closely in maintaining peace and order in the two districts for the past six month. He added that the Songkhla Task Force had successfully persuaded two suspected militants in the two districts to give up their armed struggle and to undergo re-education and rehabilitation in accordance with Section 21 of the Internal Security Act.
Although security affairs are now the responsibility of the civilians in the two districts of Songkhla, the governor said that some army units still remain there to provide support to the civilians if necessary.
For the next step, three more districts namely Yala’s Betong district, Waeng district of Narathiwat and Mae Larn district of Pattani will come under civilian rule. Mae Larn district in particular is the first district of the restive deep South which saw the lifting of the Emergency Decree since December 28, 2010.
Maj-Gen Noppawong, meanwhile, assured that Jana and Na Thawee districts would not be turned into a refuge for insurgent gangs because most of the people, community and religious leaders there strongly oppose violence of all forms making it impossible for the insurgents to take shelter there.
Mr Vicharn Rattanasathian, vice mayor of Na Thawee district, said he welcomed the return of civilian rule as it signals the improvement of situation and the strength of the people’s sector.
He, however, expressed concern that with the military playing the second fiddle in peace keeping insurgent gangs might seize the opportunity to seek refuge in the two districts. But he expected more tourists to return.
Phra Khru Suwattanaporn, abbot of Wat Na Thawee, attributed the improvement of situation in Na Thawee district to the unity and cooperation of the Thai Buddhist and Malay Muslim people.