Persons of the Year: Pol Col Thawee Sodsong and Hassan Taib
Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre secretary-general Pol Col Thawee Sodsong and Hassan Taib, chief negotiator of the peace talks of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) have been named "Persons of the Year" by the Isra news centre.
The two men were chosen for their outstanding roles contributing to the search of peace in the troubled Deep South for the year 2013.
Pol Col Thawee began his job in the troubled region when he was appointed secretary-general of SBPAC on October 18, 2011 by the cabinet replacing Mr Panu Uthairat who was seen as being close to the Democrat party. Prior to this important appointment, he was deputy permanent secretary for justice.
A native of Ang Thong, Pol Col Thawee was graduated from Police Academy in Sam Pran. A rising star in the investigative field, he steadily advanced in his police career until he was promoted deputy commander of the Crime Suppression Division. Then he was moved to the Department of Special Investigation of the Justice Ministry and eventually made the head of the department and subsequently deputy permanent secretary of justice before he was sent to the Deep South as head of SBPAC.
One of the most outstanding achievements of Pol Col Thawee which has won the praise and confidence of unrest victims and their families is the compensation payments to the people affected by the violence perpetrated by state officials and separatists.
The affected people include victims of the Tak Bai incident, the Krue She incident, the Ai Payae mosque attack, Wat Promprasit attack as well as the enforced missing people dating back to 2004 when the insurgency war started.
The amount of payments was increased from 100,000 baht to 500,000 baht for death, injury or disability. The biggest lot of compensation was paid on August 17, 2012 – a few days ahead of the Hari Rayo festival marking the end of the monthlong fast.
Another outstanding achievement is the "return of justice" to suspects detained on security-related charges. Detained suspects were given new uniforms –white shirts with long sleeves and pants which cover the knees to make it more comfortable for them in praying. Those who were locked up in jails elsewhere were moved to prisons in the three southernmost provinces to make it easier for their families to visit them. On top of that, some families were taken to visit some detainees at Bang Kwang maximum security prison in Nonthaburi free of any charges by courtesy of the SBPAC.
The most important aspect of the "return of justice" approach is the temporary release or suspension of punishment granted for some key separatists among them 74-year old Hajji Buedo Betong, former head of the PULO.
Meanwhile Hassan Taib emerged into public limelight when when he headed the BRN in signing a peace process agreement with Lt-Gen Paradorn Pattanatabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council, in Kuala Lumpur, on February 28, 2013. The agreement was the first of its kind in the long history of conflict in the Deep South.
Immediately after the emergence of Hassan Taib, a big question mark was raised whether he actually has the power in the BRN and over the other separatist groups. The doubt still lingers on even after three rounds of peace talks.
However, the Thai government has insisted all along that Hassan Taib is the real man with a say in the separatist movement despite some reports that he was forced by Kuala Lumpur to enter the peace process.
The followings are the background of Mr Hassan Taib. A native of Ra-ngae district of Narathiwat, he is now living in Trengganu state of Malaysia with dual nationalities.
Graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Indonesia, he was one of the founders of BRN – the second in command after Sapa-ing Basor. He was regarded by Thai authorities as a compromising figure.
Defence permanent secretary General Nipat Thonglek who called Hassan Taib Uncle Hassan recalled the previous three rounds of peace talks saying Uncle Hassan had always tried to keep the talks from breaking up whenever both sides were engaged in fierce arguments. Sometimes he asked for a coffee break to ease the tension, said the general.
Caption : (left) Pol Col Thawee Sodsong (right) Hassan Taib