The defection of 93 former Islamic militants who were brought before the media at the Narathiwat provincial Islamic office on Sept 11 might have been seen as a photo-op for Lt Gen Udomchai Thammasarorach, commander of the 4th Army Region, to showcase his achievement in convincing the group to stop their armed struggle and turn over a new leaf.
But the event nonetheless represented a small but significant step forward in the government's attempts to restore peace and order in the restive deep South through non-military means.
It is quite encouraging that the government has, of late, escalated efforts aimed at convincing more militants and their sympathisers to turn themselves in. Among the steps being mulled include an amendment to Section 21 of the Internal Security Act to introduce a re-education programme for defectors in lieu of criminal prosecution; a gradual lifting of the emergency decree in areas considered as safe or free of violent incidents perpetrated by militants; and possible revocation of arrest warrants issued under the decree.
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