Apirat says Thaksin provoked insurgents

Apirat says Thaksin provoked insurgents

Army chief Apirat Kongsompong on Friday accused the Thaksin Shinawatra administration of complicating the southern insurgency problem.

"The southern unrest became more intense in 2002 when the government led by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra disbanded the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, which played a key role in social, political and economic development in the violence-plagued provinces," Gen Apirat said in response to critics of the current government's efforts in the region.

Mr Thaksin reportedly disbanded the SBPAC to centralise administrative power.

After disbanding the SBPAC, Gen Apirat said that former prime minister Thaksin had used the term chon krachok, or "small-time crooks", to describe insurgents which he said had only inflamed the situation.

Since then, separatist groups had intensified their attacks on authorities, including the armed robbery and slaughter at the 4th Development Battalion in Narathiwat's Cho Airong district in 2004, he claimed.

"That was the start of a new round of violence," Gen Apirat said.

During a rare public speech at the army headquarters, Gen Apirat said yesterday that criticism of the current government for failing to solve the insurgency is unfair.

"They are the words of politicians or those with vested interests," he told participants, including scholars, students, celebrities and Thai and foreign media members.

He urged those in attendance to look at the broader history of the decades-long conflict.

He said that the Surayud Chulanont government decided to revive the SBPAC in 2006 and soldiers from other regions were also ordered to help the 4th Army.

The situation got better in 2014 during the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration when soldiers from other regions were allowed to return to their home bases, according to the general.

But for some reason, "the unrest intensified again after the March 24 general election this year", he said.

One major incident that reflected this intensification was the bombing of various areas of Bangkok in early August, said Gen Apirat.

"I will not let these wrongdoers walk free," he pledged.

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