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Thai princess visits restive south to offer support

Publication Date : 26-09-2012


Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is in Thailand's deep south to offer moral support to people of all faiths and religions, 4th Army Region Commander Lt-General Udomchai Thammasarote said yesterday.

The Princess is visiting the region on behalf of the King and Queen, who are worried about the effect of daily violence on their subjects in the region.

The three-day visit began on Monday in Songkhla, and includes stopovers at royal projects in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

Although the government claims things in the South are getting better, attacks have continued unabated, claiming many lives and injuring hundreds. However, some positive signs emerged recently when many alleged insurgents showed up to discuss the situation with the authorities.

Meanwhile, seven men have been arrested for their alleged role in two separate attacks on government forces, which killed more than 10 people and injured scores of others in Pattani province, Pol Major Dittaporn Sasasmit, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command, said.

In one of the attacks, four soldiers were ambushed and killed in Ma-Yor district on July 28. In the second incident, last Friday, six officials were killed and 50 other people injured by a bomb at a busy market in Sai Buri district.

Dittaporn said some of these suspects were also wanted for previous attacks on government personnel.

He said the emergency decree was necessary in the deep South and that the plan to lift it in some areas should be reviewed by the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, ISOC and provincial administrators.

The southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala are still under the emergency decree, which some observers say has loopholes that heighten the risk of arbitrary detention and abuse of detainees. Some liken it to martial law with little accountability. The decree, officially known as the Executive Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, is renewed every three months.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapha has ordered a boost in security in the South this month, because statistics since 2007 show that the number of attacks rise between September 26 and 29, particularly on September 28, when there is a reshuffle of governors nationwide.

Strict inspections have been ordered at all checkpoints and officials told to ensure that licence plates at the front and rear of vehicles match. It is believed that cars used for bomb attacks often have mismatched licence plates.

Yuthasak cited a recent bomb in Narathiwat's Bacho district, saying nobody thought insurgents would attack a school because incidents like this had not happened for a long time. He noted that the situation may get better if another 5,000 police patrol officers were posted to help the Army.

Referring to the attack in Sai Buri last Friday, he said the blast took place about 100 metres from a police station, which suggested carelessness by security officials in screening vehicles.

He said insurgents were believed to have stolen up to 10 vehicles with the intent of using them in bomb attacks, but he added that he did not blame officials for not finding them as the insurgents were very good at hiding things.

In a related report, Colonel Noppadon Watcharajitbovorn, an Army ranger commander, said soldiers in his unit had been tasked with setting up checkpoints, to check on flats and dormitories, as well as registering people from other parts of the country.

The police chief for Betong in Yala, Pol Col Suwat Wongpaiboon, said officers were distributing leaflets asking people to alert them when they see suspicious vehicles. He said that while security personnel were doing their best to remain on guard, the public should also help.


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