Chalerm picks advisory group 'tied to rebels'

Yingluck says govt not involved in selection

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has appointed nine members of the Wadah group as his advisers on the deep South.

The move has been criticised as some observers have accused members of the group of being linked to insurgents in the region.

The advisers, appointed yesterday by Mr Chalerm, are group leader Den Tomeena, Wan Muhamad Nor Matha Wan, Areepen Uttarasin, Sukarno Matha, Najmuddin Uma, Phetdao Tomeena, Abdulrohman Absulsamad, Suthipan Sririkanont and Sudin Phuyutthanont.

Most are well known in political circles and several have been cabinet ministers and members of parliament.

The Wadah group comprises influential Muslim politicians from several political parties. It once dominated seats in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Mr Chalerm said he appointed the Wadah members as his advisers because they are Muslims who are well aware of the problems plaguing the predominantly Islamic southernmost provinces and are respected by residents, Mr Chalerm said.

If their opinions prove useful, they will also be asked to attend a meeting of the Centre for Implementation of Policies and Strategies for Solving Problems in Southern Border Provinces. Mr Chalerm expects to hold a meeting with the centre next week.

The decision has raised some eyebrows as some of the group's members are accused of supporting insurgents in the far South.

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn warned Mr Chalerm to be careful about security leaks now that he has appointed Wadah members as advisers.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday distanced her government from the move. "The appointment is Mr Chalerm's personal decision, and it does not involve the government," she said.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said Mr Chalerm had thought carefully before deciding to appoint the advisers.

The deputy prime minister needs the help of those who are knowledgeable on the problems of the South, he said.

Wadah member Mr Najmuddin said he is ready to provide information and offer his opinions on the insurgency.

He stressed the need for the government to solve the unrest through peaceful dialogue.

He said the invocation of the Internal Security Act to replace the emergency decree in the area is a step in the right direction.

The emergency decree worries locals as it gives authorities too much power, he said.

Mr Najmuddin said the ruling Pheu Thai Party has no representation in the far South, which makes it difficult for the government to work with local authorities.

The party needs representatives from the region to liaise with local people to solve the problem, he said.

Democrat Party deputy leader Thaworn Senneam yesterday said the Wadah group has close ties with locals in the far South, and while this could benefit Mr Chalerm's efforts in the region, it could also pose problems.

Meanwhile, in Yala, eight soldiers were injured in a grenade attack.

Authorities say two suspected insurgents drove a motorcycle past Wat Lak 5 at 6pm as soldiers of the Yala Task Force 11 were engaged in physical training, and tossed an M26 grenade at the troops.

Pol Col Pacharaphol na Nakhon, chief of the Muang district police station, said the explosion wounded eight soldiers. Security cameras recorded the attack and a manhunt has commenced, he said.

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