Deep South curfew plan gets the axe

High-ranking security officials yesterday vetoed a proposal to impose a limited curfew in the restive far South.

  • Published: 16/02/2013 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

The Centre for the Implementation of Policies and Strategies for Solving Southern Problems declared the measure unnecessary after reviewing evidence from military and civilian sources at a meeting yesterday. The centre had the final say on whether to approve the plan.

Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) chief Thawee Sodsong, 4th Army Commander Udomchai Thammasarorat and the governors of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat all told the meeting that existing laws and regulations were sufficient to combat the insurgency.

They said a curfew was not needed, and would make matters worse.

"The meeting has discussed all the aspects and decided not to enforce a curfew. The measure is not called for at the present time," National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr said.

Lt Gen Paradorn expressed confidence that the curfew would not be needed in the future. The situation in the South was improving thanks to increased collaboration from local residents, he said.

The NSC chief said Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who proposed the curfew last week, was unfazed by the decision to reject the plan.

"His [Mr Chalerm's] proposed curfew was only an idea. He listened to what was said at the meeting and accepted the decision," Lt Gen Paradorn said.

The NSC chief said that concerns were raised at the meeting about a possible escalation of violence in the wake of the foiled militant raid on a marine base in Narathiwat on Wednesday.

Security agencies were confident that input and collaboration from locals would help authorities handle the situation, Lt Gen Paradorn said.

Security operatives were worried that imposing a curfew would sabotage their relations with locals, he said.

"Locals are actively engaged [with security forces] so the situation isn't so worrisome. Those in the field don't want to lose their allies."

The meeting also ruled out providing more firearms to village and tambon chiefs.

"They require capacity-building first. The weapons they have now should be enough," Lt Gen Paradorn said.

He also said that granting compensation to the families of the 16 militants killed in Wednesday's botched raid was not brought up for discussion.

"We extend condolences to the families but they don't meet the criteria for compensation," Lt Gen Paradorn said.

Meanwhile, authorities are running checks on firearms and bullet-proof vests seized from the dead militants.

Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said five of the vests were found to belong to defence volunteers and another five are registered to police.

He has asked the Department of Provincial Administration to investigate how the vests ended up in militants' hands and to run an inventory check.

Six of the 18 guns seized from the militants have also been identified as state-owned, including two M-16 rifles which were stolen from an army camp in Narathiwat in 2004.

Mr Charupong praised the work of the Interior Ministry's kamnan informant network, which he said has helped solve several cases. The network now has more than 8,000 members.

He said the network recently helped recover a car belonging to slain Narathiwat teacher Chonlathee Charoenchol.

The Muslim schoolteacher was shot in the head by an attacker in the school's canteen on Jan 23. The gunman took the victim's car keys and sped off.

Asked about a video clip which reportedly showed the 16 dead militants from Wednesday's attack being praised for their "sacrifice", Mr Charupong said it was the government's job to refute the authenticity of the footage. "It is up to the state to make everyone aware that those claims are not true," he said.

Security forces are still trying to track down six core militants believed to have been involved in Wednesday's attack.

They are Mahamah Maeroh, 26, Abdulhakim Puta, 38, Yaffri Sa-ror-eng, 29, Apandee Kapa, 27, Ro-pae-ing Useng, 40, and Madaree Walong, 41.

Four suspected rebels were arrested on Thursday for their alleged involvement in the attack. Security forces on the ground have reported increased militant movement in mountainous areas.

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Writer: Patsara Jikkham and Waedao Harai

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