The Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) appears determined to carry on with a project to revive abandoned rice fields in the troubled far South despite the deadly attack last Friday on a group of farmer trainers, leaving two of them dead and 11 injured, including seven listed as being in a serious condition.
The farmer trainers hailed from Sing Buri and Suphan Buri provinces through an arrangement with the Buffalo Village, a privately-run organisation to conserve buffalos and promote rice farming, which belongs to former Chart Thai MP Praphat Pothasuthon.
The farmer trainers might have been monitored by their assailants for some time, as they were attacked on a day when they were not escorted by soldiers.
An army officer at Ban Ba Loi outpost said troops were normally deployed to guard the farmer group. However, last Friday the guards were switched to provide protection to teachers instead.
The officer responsible for protecting the farmer teachers from the Central Plains made a bad misjudgement in removing the guards, even for a day. But even if the trainers are guarded while performing their duty in the fields, there is no guarantee they will be 100% safe as attested by the various attacks against armed convoys of teachers in the troubled region.
The question is whether the trainers from Suphan Buri and Sing Buri who are strangers to the cruel realities in the far South were fully informed of the risks and dangers they were to face.
Nonetheless, the trainers deserve to be commended for their courage and sacrifice in accepting an unenviable undertaking that many of their peers would have immediately turned down.
Other trainers might now think twice about joining the project.
The SBPAC showed good intentions in launching the scheme to revive the abandoned rice fields in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
Sunai Pasuk of Bangkok-based Human Rights Watch agreed that it would be a pity if the project is scrapped following the attacks.
However, he suggested the scheme which he described as sensitive needs to be discussed by all stakeholders so there is a clear understanding of its objective _ which is to help improve the quality of life of people in the region, especially among the farmers.
Good intentions aside, it is questionable whether the project was thoroughly thought through.
For instance, is the project itself sustainable and will it help improve the livelihoods of farmers if the government's rice pledging scheme is discontinued in the future?
Like most farmers in other regions who are tempted by the scheme's promise of unrealistically high rice prices _ 15,000 baht per tonne of unmilled white rice and 20,000 baht a tonne of Hom Mali paddy _ the ex-farmers in the far South who have quit farming in pursuit of jobs which are more financially rewarding may have wanted to return to their traditional livelihood to cash in on the government's populist scheme.
Does the SBPAC have the answer for the southernmost farmers if the scheme is scrapped?
Then there is the question of how to ensure the safety of the farmer trainers.
If safety cannot be guaranteed for the trainers, would it not be more sensible to send the farmer students to Suphan Buri or Sing Buri to learn the trade instead of sending the trainers down to the deep South to face the risk of being attacked by insurgents?