The government has accepted proposals from the opposition to quell the southern strife in their first meeting to tackle the long-running insurgency.
Government and opposition leaders along with military chiefs met at Government House yesterday to discuss the southern strife.
Present at the meeting were Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, opposition and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, Democrat MPs for southern provinces, and army commander Gen Prayuth Pran-ocha.
Prime Minister Yingluck said the government and the opposition shared similar ideas about solutions to the unrest.
She also said southern MPs had called for development projects in the far South and government agencies had agreed to deliver this proposal.
Speaking after the three-hour meeting, Mr Abhisit said the government and the opposition both had similar and opposing ideas on the far South. His side stressed the government had to end any iron-fist policy that caused hatred.
He proposed the government develop trust and adhere to the law. However, he said the opposition is ready to support any useful changes to laws to bring about solutions to the southern unrest.
During the meeting, Mr Abhisit expressed his disagreement over the government's setting up of a southern command centre to supervise the situation in the region. He said the new centre could pose problems because it might curb public participation and obstruct coordination.
Mr Abhisit also proposed the prime minister take charge of resolving the southern woes herself but Ms Yingluck said that duty rested with Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa.
The opposition leader said conflicting comments about the South from various authorities under the prime minister had caused confusion. He cited different stances on the proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung for people in the far South to elect their provincial governors.
Democrat deputy leader Thaworn Senneam said his party proposed the government amend Section 21 of the Internal Security Act to support the defection of southern separatists.
He said the present section authorised the courts to make the final decision on amnesties for people who were lured into joining the rebels. That had caused potential defectors to wonder if they might not avoid legal punishment if they surrendered.
Mr Chalerm said the proposals from the opposition were interesting and the prime minister had listened to them.
Gen Prayuth said the general atmosphere during the discussion was smooth and the prime minister accepted all the proposals of the opposition.
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- Writer: Pradit Ruangdit