Govt extends ISA in 5 districts for a year

The cabinet resolved Friday to extend the enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in five southern districts for another year.

The hour-long meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, approved the one-year extension of the ISA covering four districts of Songkhla - Na Thawee, Saba Yoi, Thepha and Chana - and Mae Lan district in Pattani.

Nine cabinet ministers joined the meeting including Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat and Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan.

Ms Yingluck said the cabinet also addressed beefing up security for teachers in the restive South and expected teachers' fears to ease.

She said security measures for each school may be different and authorities will have to discuss them with school executives on a case-by-case basis.

"If any school believes its staff are at risk, the government is ready to discuss and assign authorities concerned to look into it," Ms Yingluck said.

Mr Chalerm said the prime minister has assigned ACM Sukumpol to supervise the operation's implementation in the far South while Ms Yingluck is in charge of policy and overall administration.

Mr Chalerm said he is acting as deputy chairman of the southern border provinces command centre.

Ms Yingluck has instructed the cabinet to review enforcement of the emergency decree in the restive South and study a gradual lifting if possible, he said.

The enforcement of the edict covering 33 southern districts will expire in mid-December.

Government spokesman Tossaporn Serirak said that Ms Yingluck has also asked the National Security Council and the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) to study the possibility of replacing the emergency decree with the ISA.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he would ask Malaysia to help tackle the southern unrest.

The issue will be raised during Joint Commission talks on Dec 14-15 in Phuket chaired by Mr Surapong and his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman.

He said Malaysia previously held peace talks to help the Philippines tackle its internal conflict, but he did not know in detail how it helped.

In a related development, the Isoc committee chaired by Mr Chalerm yesterday approved a proposal seeking to restructure Isoc Region 4, Isoc spokesman Lt Gen Dissaporn Sasasamit said.

The spokesman said the restructuring is in line with the introduction of a special command centre which was set up to coordinate intelligence and operations among different agencies.

The committee also approved the appointments of Gen Nipon Parannit, Gen Sanan Maroengsit, Gen Noppadon Watthanothai and Lt Gen Thanayos Sirikul as advisers to Isoc.

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