Democrats threaten to skip Chalerm meet

The opposition Democrat Party has said it will join in Friday's meeting on the southern unrest only if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attends.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has invited Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and southern MPs from the Democrat Party to attend a meeting tomorrow at the Royal Thai Police Office.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets Muslim women during a visit to Narathiwat yesterday. She met with local officials to discuss solutions to the ongoing insurgent violence in the deep South.

Mr Chalerm will co-chair the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa, who oversees security affairs.

Deputy Democrat leader and MP for Songkhla Thaworn Senniam announced yesterday that his party will not accept the invitation if Ms Yingluck does not attend personally.

He said that Mr Chalerm, who is assigned to oversee intelligence operations in the far South, and Gen Yutthasak lack decision-making authority.

Other MPs for the southernmost provinces echoed Mr Thaworn's remarks, saying they want to share their opinions directly with Ms Yingluck.

Mr Chalerm played down the Democrats' demands yesterday, saying he will forward any suggestions offered by the Democrats to the prime minister. He said Ms Yingluck had instructed him to invite the Democrat MPs.

Ms Yingluck flew to Narathiwat yesterday to meet local authorities.

She was briefed on the progress of investigations into the southern insurgency, including a car bomb in front of the CS Pattani Hotel in Pattani's Muang district early last month.

Despite tight security for Ms Yingluck and her entourage, violence still managed to erupt.

Four marines of the Narathiwat 33 Task Force providing security on Narathiwat-Rangae road for the premier's arrival were wounded by a bomb blast about 10.30am, police said.

The bomb had been planted on the roadside and detonated when the four officers approached the area to remove a hanging banner that directed insults at soldiers.

Petty Officer 1st Class Suthin Simuang lost both his legs in the blast; three privates were wounded.

In a related incident, one suspected militant was killed and three others arrested in a clash with government forces in Rueso district in Narathiwat province.

The clash occurred after soldiers from the 49th Rangers Regiment and Narathiwat 30 Task Force laid siege to Ban Pattana Chart Thai in tambon Khok Sato. The military suspected the village was sheltering militants.

Soldiers said they killed Usman Ponae, a local militant, and arrested five other suspects. The soldiers reported no casualties.

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