A special government team assigned to tackle southern unrest will take over the management of multi-billion-baht budgets from state agencies to steer efforts to bring peace to the violence-stricken far South.
Deputy Defence Minister Udomdej Sitabutr, who was appointed to head the 13-member delegation, chaired a team meeting Thursday at the Defence Ministry to assess progress and discuss a roadmap to douse the flames of the southern insurgency.
Taking over the budget management is part of the roadmap which is expected to be presented to the cabinet for acknowledgement next Tuesday, a source said.
The special government delegation has already been given authority under Section 44 to decide on solutions to the southern problems, and to handle budget management, the source said.
Since 2004, more than 264 billion baht has been spent on tackling southern strife by eight governments. This year has seen the highest budget allocation of just over 30 billion baht, up from 25 billion baht last year and 13 billion baht in 2004.
These figures are only for project budgets, and they do not include the salaries of state officials involved, and the regular spending of agencies responsible for solving the problem, the source said.
Speaking after Thursday's meeting, Panu Uthairat, a former SBPAC secretary-general who serves as the panel's secretary-general, said panel members assessed the progress of its work during the past three months.
Also present at the meeting were representatives from agencies involved such as the Southern Border Province Administration Centre (SBPAC), the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4's Forward Command, and the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre.
Mr Panu revealed that the meeting considered budget spending plans by all ministries involved in addressing the southern unrest.
He said the panel has the authority to transfer the ministries' budgets set aside for projects in the southernmost provinces to support efforts to promote development and boost security in the region. Initially, it will consider a total of 89 projects worth about 1.7 billion to be initiated for this purpose, Mr Panu said.
He said all projects initiated by 20 ministries must be approved by the special government delegation to ensure they are consistent in terms of achieving their goals and responding to the needs of the local people.
"Usually, we do not have much authority, but having to consider the budget gives us power automatically. If any projects are not appropriate, we will use their budgets for other more suitable purposes," Mr Panu said.
He said the special panel was satisfied that its approach to solving the southern unrest had received a good response from local people, Mr Panu said, adding that its members were confident that their approach to development was a step in the right direction.
"Our duty is to speed things up, make things easier, and make what never happened before happen," he said.
Mr Panu also said that Gen Udomdej has set up a subcommittee to study details of a plan to develop the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat under the project known as "the economic triangle of security, prosperity and sustainability".
Mr Panu said the meeting considered the roadmap and action plans which were a collaboration of all sectors including local people in the southern region.
"The roadmap is expected to tackle all dimensions of the southern problems," he said.
Gen Suthas Jarumanee, the head of the special government delegation office, said the roadmap had been drawn up at the behest of the prime minister. The roadmap was the outcome of brainstorming ideas to integrate all aspects of security and development.
Former 4th Army chief Gen Udomchai Thammasaroraj, who is a delegation member, said progress has been made in solving the southern unrest. There are positive signs that hatred and fighting have decreased. "I believe there will be more good news. Peace is gradually coming back," Gen Udomchai said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as National Council for Peace and Order chief, invoked his power under Section 44 of the interim charter to appoint a 13-member delegation of "special government representatives" to coordinate efforts to bring peace to the restive region.
The delegation is assigned to integrate work between the cabinet and other central government agencies and local organisations.