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Thai insurgents released under plea bargain
Publication Date : 30-10-2012
A plea bargain scheme under the Internal Security Act in Thailand's deep south was implemented successfully for the first time yesterday - as a provincial court in Songkhla freed two convicted insurgents after six months of re-education.
Officials now expect and hope more insurgents will lay down their arms and return to the legal fold and peace in the restive south.
Royalee Bueraheng, 28, and Yasa Jehma, 25, were released by the court from involvement in offences - including terrorism and murder of security officials - committed years ago.
Both decided to enter the plea bargain scheme under Article 21 of the Internal Security Act early this year and went through the legal process under court surveillance for six months. Their term was completed on October 26. The court considered their cases and ruled on their release and they returned to their community yesterday.
Fourth Army Region Commander Udomchai Thammasarorat met both after the court session and handed them certification to show they had passed through a re-education camp. Aree Tejawanto, chief of Narathiwat Centre for Skill Development also gave them certificates for completing courses in professional photography, and as hair cutting and mechanics. Families, relatives and associates greeted them and extended a warm welcome home.
Article 21 of the Internal Security Act authorises the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) to recommend a court grant amnesty for insurgents who voluntarily turn themselves in to the authorities and agree to undergo a re-education course for six months to change their perception toward the state. In exchange, their criminal and security charges would be dropped. The court might set some more conditions for them to follow before or after the amnesty.
The Internal Security Act was implemented only in Songkhla's four districts of Chana, Thepha, Saba Yoi and Na Thawi in 2009. Four cases attempted to pass through the scheme in 2010 but changed their minds later, causing the process to fail. Royalee and Yasa were the first suspected insurgents who passed the process.
Violence flared in the Muslim region in 2004 and has taken over 5,000 lives. Nobody has claimed responsibility but top authorities say separatists orchestrated attacks to resist Bangkok rule in the region, where the vast majority of residents are ethnic Muslim Malays.
Isoc Fourth Region spokesman Pramote Prom-in said the plea bargaining scheme under Article 21 was a new judicial idea for reconciliation to bring justice to both suspects and affected people. Suspects under security charges would be able to go through the process only after their consent on a voluntary basis, he said.
"From now on (Royalee and Yasa) would return to their normal lives with families and associates, with no need to run away and hide any more. They can work like everybody else as they have now developed new skills," Pramote said. One would open a barber shop, while the other would open a computer shop in their home villages.
Another suspect was going through the plea bargaining process, he said. At least 17 more suspected insurgents were qualified to enter it, he said.