Isoc to plot amnesty strategy in South

Security agencies have given the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) responsibility to recommend where and how to offer militants amnesty in exchange for surrender in the troubled southern provinces.

The new strategy, involving the use of Section 21 of the Internal Security Act (ISA), represents a big shift in the government's approach to the insurgency, which has become increasingly violent in recent months.

The decision was reached in talks on Friday involving the Justice Ministry, Isoc, the National Security Council, the Central Institute of Forensic Science, the Office of the Attorney-General and the police.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said afterward that Isoc would be responsible for the programme, with state prosecutors represented on a panel that would screen areas where Section 21 could be applied.

Isoc's recommendations would be forwarded to the Center for the Implementation of Policies and Strategies for Solving Southern Problems and then to the cabinet for endorsement.

The meeting on Friday meeting followed the government's decision last Monday to offer a carrot to insurgents by replacing the emergency decree with the ISA.

Section 21 gives militants a chance to return to normal life without legal prosecution if they surrender. It is currently being used in four districts of Songkhla - Thepha, Chana, Na Thawi and Saba Yoi - and in Mae Lan district of Pattani.

Security authorities hope to be able to expand the use of Section 21 to other areas where appropriate.

Only two insurgents have gone through the Section  21 process since it was first introduced by the previous Democrat government. Those eligible to undergo the process are decided by security authorities.

"The announcement of whether to reduce or expand the enforcement of Section 21 depends on the situation on the ground," Pol Gen Pracha said.

Charnchao Chaiyanukij, the deputy permanent secretary for justice, said the ministry was ready to offer legal advice to security authorities in the southern border provinces on the use of Section 21 and who should qualify.

But he cautioned against a rush to expand its use. "The announcement of the enforcement of Section 21 has several steps that need to be thrashed out," he said.

The government and security agencies hope Section 21 will lure more militants to end their insurgency, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives and injured more than 12,000 people since 2004.

The section is designed to follow an example of Order 66/23 in 1980. The administration at the time was successful in offering an amnesty for then members of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), which eventually led to the end of the CPT.

Violence continued on Friday as two soldiers providing security for teachers were seriously injured by a bomb explosion in Pattani's Khok Pho district.

Pol Lt Col Chamlong Suwanluck, chief of Khok Pho police station, said the bomb exploded at 7.53am near a building of Ban Koh Ta school in tambon Tung Pla. The bomb damaged the building.

Two soldiers were seriously wounded - Pvt Banharn Lucknakuan, 23, and Pvt Phak Kaewchu, 23 - of No 24 Pattani special task force. They were admitted to Kho Pho hospital.

Earlier in the morning, police received a report of another bomb explosion in front of a health station in Moo 4, tambon Taloh Dueraman of Khok Pho district, but no one was hurt.

Police were told that the improvised explosive device buried near the side of a rural road was detonated as six soldiers patrolling on foot passed in front of the health station.

However, the bomb exploded after the soldiers had passed by safely.

Related search: Thailand, south, insurgency, surrender, amnesty, Isoc, Section 21, ISA

About the author

Writer: King-Oua Laohong and Abdullah Benjakat