Defence officials have been instructed to help explain how Thailand is tackling unrest in the insurgency-plagued deep South to Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) delegates who are scheduled to visit the country.
The instruction was given by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, according to Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich.
The deputy premier wants agencies attached to the Defence Ministry, particularly the Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), to support the Foreign Ministry's work in briefing the delegates, who plan to visit the three southernmost provinces in the next few days, Lt Gen Khongcheep said.
A source said the delegation from the OIC (formerly the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) arrived in Hat Yai district of Songkhla province Monday.
The OIC visit comes just ahead of the March 13 anniversary of the founding of the so-called Patani Malay National Revolutionary Front in 1960, or the date of the formal beginning of the separatist violence in the Deep South.
The group is known in Malay as Barisan Revolusi Nasional. The Malaysia-based BRN has been officially engaged in peace talks with two successive Thai governments since 2012, but no formal agreement has been reached.
During their visit to the three provinces, the group will visit communities, mosques, schools and Pimolchai Market in Yala where a bomb attack on Jan 22 killed three and injured 34 civilians.
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Lt Gen Kongcheep said the explanation is aimed at making sure the delegates understand the facts behind the authorities' efforts to deal with the problem.
He hopes they will trust the government's determination to handle the matter in line with the late King's "understand, access and develop" principles, which adhere to legal and peaceful means, he said.
The government wants to foster safety and ensure peace in the region, the spokesman added.
Nimu Makaje, a respected Islamic leader in Yala province, said people from various groups in the southernmost provinces are expected to give information to the OIC delegates about their lives in general while the OIC delegates may focus on religious-related issues.
"The local people are quite used to living with the unrest. Those affected might see the situation as more severe than others. However, more incidents of unrest have happened this year," he said.
The OIC claims it is the largest international group in the world, outside of the UN. Thailand and other nations shown in red are official observers to the OIC, whose full members are shown in green. Syria, in orange, is currently a suspended member. (Source, www.oic-oci.org)
He said he has witnessed Isoc's attempts to solve the problem and its greater openness to people's participation, but added some of the details of recent incidents are unclear. It is the authorities' job to find out who is behind the unrest and what they want.
Mr Nimu said the possible motives including religion, personal interest, separatism, drugs and local politics.
Reacting to the authorities' promotion of their "Bring People Home" project where former insurgents have agreed to turn themselves in, Mr Nimu said the idea is a good one if there is no hidden agenda and the people who turn themselves in are "real".
Meanwhile, a team of inspectors began a damage inspection at a local shopping mall in Narathiwat's Muang district which was targeted in an attack early on Saturday.
The initial findings of a police forensic examination showed that four bombs were used and they were placed on shelves with flammable products to ensure the blasts set off fires.
A structure outside the building was heavily damaged by fire and will have to be demolished.