Security agencies have decided to replace the draconian state of emergency in the deep South with the less harsh Internal Security Act (ISA).
Prayuth: Will avoid heavy handed path
National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr yesterday said the government intended to tone down the severity of law enforcement in the violence-plagued region.
He had just finished attending a meeting of security agencies chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at Government House.
The meeting agreed the Executive Decree for Administration in Emergency Situations _ now imposed in most districts of the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat _ should be replaced by the ISA.
The government believes Section 21 of the ISA _ which makes it easier for militants to turn themselves in to the authorities and for them to enter the negotiation process _ will help them make gains in battling the insurgency in the region.
The agencies attending the meeting were the NSC, the Centre for the Implementation of Policies and Strategies for Solving Southern Problems, the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC).
Lt Gen Paradorn said the proposal is in line with the government's approach to solving the southern conflict through peaceful dialogue.
The governors of the three provinces, the Interior Ministry and the SBPAC would assess the situation and recommend areas where the emergency decree should be replaced with the ISA. The meeting would then make a decision based on their recommendations, he said.
The emergency decree gives the state extraordinary powers to impose security measures to deal with situations that threaten national security, internal peace and order.
This includes the controversial power to detain persons at any location without charges for up to 30 days.
Lt Gen Paradorn said the current situation in the deep South is not as dire as many people believe.
In fact, more than 20 separatists are now seeking to defect to the government's side. This has prompted insurgents to instigate a spike in violence to discourage their colleagues from defecting, he said.
Lt Gen Paradorn said Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung's proposal to impose a curfew in particularly violent areas in the South had nothing to do with the meeting's resolution to replace the emergency decree.
He said the premier had ordered Mr Chalerm to visit the far South to follow up on the situation there.
Mr Chalerm said he would travel to the far South after the Bangkok governor election and that he is confident that the violence in the South can be successfully addressed.
After the meeting army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha stressed that the government will avoid using heavy handed measures and stick to the judicial process in countering the insurgency.
Gen Prayuth said even without the emergency decree the military can invoke martial law to detain suspects immediately for questioning for seven days. He said the ISA will replace the emergency decree only after violence in the far South decreases.
Two committees at the Justice Ministry would consider the invocation of Section 21 of the ISA and the director of Isoc would approve the invocation of the law.
Gen Prayuth said insurgent violence flared up again in the deep South after rebels raided a military armoury in Narathiwat in early 2004.
He said in the first stage of the government's efforts to address the problem, the army deployed troops from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd armies to reinforce the 4th Army in the South. In the current second stage, the plan is to strengthen local security operations by setting up defence volunteer units.
If and when the situation in the far South improves, soldiers will return to their original bases, Gen Prayuth said.
Fourth Army chief Udomchai Thammasarorat yesterday voiced his support for replacing the emergency decree with the ISA.
He said Section 21 of the ISA would help all sides forgive each other.
On efforts to achieve peace through dialogue, Lt Gen Udomchai said it is important to bargain from a position of strength.
He said dialogue did not mean negotiations and negotiations with insurgents are not possible.
What the government can do is initiate a process conducive to ending the conflict and such a process already exists at all levels, he said.
Sunai Phasuk, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said militants are now exploiting the deaths of the 16 rebels who were killed during a raid on a marine base in Narathiwat's Bacho district last Wednesday, using their "martyrdom" to propagate their separatist campaign.
He said the government needs to set up a committee to probe what happened during the raid and then explain the truth to locals.
The committee could include members of the National Human Rights Commission or House committee members, and could be chaired by the Isoc or the SBPAC, he said.
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