Army’s gradual pullout to begin in May
The army will start pulling out some troop units from the troubled far South in May as part of a long-term plan to let the non-military forces take over the responsibility for peace keeping efforts in the region.
The initial stage of the gradual withdrawal will some 1,600 troops from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd army regions based in Bangkok, Sakhon Nakhon and Phitsanuloke respectively return home. They will be replaced by the same number of police force recruited from former conscripts and currently undergoing training at the Infantry Centre.
The fresh policemen will be deployed in ten districts which have low incidence of violence. The ten districts are Betong and Kabang of Yala province, Mai Kaen and Mae Larn of Pattani, Waeng and Sukhirin of Narathiwat and Jana, Thepa, Sabayoi and Nathawee of Songkhla. Emergency decree has already been lifted in the ten districts and replaced with the Internal Security Act.
Earlier on January 8, the army handed over the task of peace keeping in Jana and Nathawee districts of Songkhla to the provincial Internal Security Operations Command headed by the Songkhla governor.
The main army fighting force still remains in the restive region is the 15th infantry division attached to the 4th army region based in Nakhon Si Thammarat. However, the paramilitary rangers will bear the brunt of peace keeping and combating the insurgents. There are currently 16,000 rangers grouped into 12 regiments operating in the region.
A military report which was recently presented at a closed-door meeting of security officers at Sirindhorn camp in Pattani concluded that out of some 1,900 villages in 37 districts of the four provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, there are 324 villages listed as “Red” where insurgents are still active.
The forward command of the ISOC has targeted to liberate some 118 "Red" villages into "Yellow" or "Green" villages within this fiscal year. It was reliably reported that Defence Minister Sukhumphol Suwannathat had instructed army officers in the region to refrain from using the wordings, three southernmost provinces, when talking to the Press because they could send a wrong message that the situation was bad in the entire provinces while, in reality, only 324 villages in ten districts are listed as risky due to activities of the insurgents.