Udomchai hails diversion training for rebel defectors

The Fourth Army chief has hailed a court's decision to send separatist defectors to attend social reintegration training in lieu of indictment.

Fourth Army commander Lt Gen Udomchai Thammasarorach said the decision by Na Thawi provincial court in Songkhla to send three defectors in two cases to the training sessions would help restore peace in the troubled region.

On Oct 29, the court decided two defectors, both men, should be trained instead of being indicted on security charges.

One of them was accused of perpetrating a separatist attack in Saba Yoi district in 2004 and the other was linked to another attack incident in Ban Koh Lae Nang in Thepha district early this year.

It was not clear if the two belong to the same insurgent group.

The training, which is permitted under the Internal Security Act 2008 Act, lasts for six months.

Lt Gen Udomchai said yesterday another defector has asked to surrender after hearing of the court's decision.

Welcoming the court's decision, Lt Gen Udomchai said he expected at least 20 more defectors will surrender to authorities. "This will be seen as a good sign. People who have committed wrongs are being forgiven. I believe many more suspects in cases of security offences will be motivated to join the legal process," he said.

In Narathiwat yesterday, an employee of the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) was killed in an ambush in Sungai Padi district.

The victim was identified as Sulaiman Pohsatu, 31, an employee at PEA's Sungai Padi office, Pol Lt Kunaphat Lertborvorn, duty officer at Sungai Padi police station said.

Witnesses told police that Sulaiman was travelling on his motorcycle to his rubber plantation on a local road when a man hiding in roadside forest fired on him with a handgun. The assailant then fled. Sulaiman was shot in the head and died on the spot.

Security authorities have also been alerted to possible vehicle bomb attacks during the lead-up to the New Year, a security source said.

The source said that according to informant reports, the militants had concealed bombs in eight types of vehicles, including trucks used for carrying wood from rubber trees and vegetables and fruit, as well as motorcycles and tricycles.

These vehicle bombs would be used to attack vulnerable spots in crowded communities, but no clear targets had been fixed, according to the informants.

The militants' intentions were to intimidate operators of shops and passenger buses into again closing their businesses on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath, now that they had returned to business as usual after being assured by the authorities of their safety.

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