The National Security Council (NSC) is pushing to reorganise troops from around the deep South so the army can move ahead with its plan to establish a new infantry division to specifically fight against separatist insurgents.
Paradorn: Manpower boost planned
Lt-Gen Paradorn Pattanathabutr, the new NSC secretary-general who assumed office on Oct 1, said dousing the flames of the southern conflict is one of the NSC's top priorities. Another priority is to foster national reconciliation.
He said he will ask the army to consider withdrawing troops deployed from the First, Second and Third Armies in the three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and sending them back to their bases in other regions.
The army can then establish the 15th Infantry Division as another unit to fight the separatists.
In November last year, the cabinet approved an army proposal to set up the unit to tackle the southern insurgency.
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The unit would be staffed by soldiers who are natives of the southernmost provinces who understand the needs and problems of residents better than soldiers deployed from elsewhere.
He said the soldiers will remain in the deep South for six-month rotations.
"More than 40,000 troops [from other regions] are ready to return to their bases," Lt Gen Paradorn said, adding that he has also discussed the plan with Vice Admiral Sonthaya Noichaya, commander of the Royal Marine Corps, to have marine officers provide support for security operations in Narathiwat.
The NSC chief stressed that soldiers should be responsible for all the security tasks so that local officials, police officers and defence volunteers could assume more prominent roles.
He said that next year another 1,700 defence volunteers and another 5,000 police officers will be deployed in the far South.
The deployment is expected to take about one year. He said manpower, resources and equipment are in place to deal with the southern conflict, but more willpower is needed.
Lt Gen Paradorn said efforts to solve the southern violence should improve because Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra understands the problem.
The government's strategy to solve the southern violence is now heading in the right direction, he said.
"The strategy is a participatory process involving all concerned agencies, particularly the army," he said.
He said the NSC and the army may have differing views on how to handle the problem, but they are not in conflict.
Lt Gen Paradorn said the NSC wanted to lift special emergency laws in the far South, while the army wants to keep them in place.
"It's okay if the enforcement of the laws is only for the short term, but if they remain in force for the long term, the country's credibility in the eyes of other countries may be affected," he added.
However, the NSC and the army want to sort out their differences and reach a common position on the issue.
Lt Gen Paradorn said he will meet Gen Udomdej Seetabutr, the army's chief of staff and the secretary of the Internal Security Operations Command, to discuss the matter this week.
Lt Gen Paradorn stressed the need to improve intelligence operations and data on the separatist movements in the far South.
The rebel faction has split into at least three groups, he said. The masterminds behind the violence are not here in Thailand, but security officers know who they are. "We know who we are fighting against," he said.
"They are not one large group, but they are divided into several small groups, who are trying to make their presence felt," he said, noting there may not be a single, centralised leadership among the rebels.
Meanwhile, a bomb disposal squad yesterday defused a 1kg explosive device found in a rubber plantation in Narathiwat's Rangae district.
Plantation owner Napaporn Mahawong, 40, said he spotted the suspicious-looking device underneath a walkway in his plantation. A team of bomb technicians and forensic experts were sent to the plantation to investigate.
Officers found a homemade bomb that weighed about 1kg. The officers sealed off the area and neutralised the explosive. No one was injured.
About the author
- Writer: Wassana Nanuam