Security agencies are considering legal action against a group of activists promoting the separation of the predominantly Muslim southern border provinces from Thailand.
Such consideration follows the launch of a student activists group based in the three southernmost provinces, called Pelajar Bangsa or "a national student movement", at a seminar at the political science faculty of Prince of Songkla University's Pattani campus on Wednesday.
According to sources, the group is a reassembly of student activists in the deep South after the disbandment of the Federation of Patani Students and Youth (PerMas) on Nov 8, 2021.
The seminar was held under the topic "Self-Determination and Patani Peace".
Each participant at the event was given a ballot asking whether people in the southern border provinces should have the right to vote for the separation of the three provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four districts in Songkhla from Thailand.
Speakers at the seminar included Worawit Baru, deputy leader of the Prachachat Party and MP-elect for Pattani, and Hakim Pongtigor, deputy secretary-general of the FAIR Party. The two parties are part of the prospective coalition led by the Move Forward Party, which seeks to form a government.
The ballot picture was later shared on social media, prompting a reaction from netizens and concerned security agencies.
Maj Gen Pramote Prom-in, deputy commander of the 4th Army Region and a member of the government team negotiating peace in the southern region, said that security agencies have been monitoring the movement and activities of those who comprise the new group for quite a while.
"Our legal team is considering whether the group violated the law," he said while stressing that the country's territorial integrity must be kept intact.
"We must explain to the public that the group's action is inappropriate. The deep South is still plagued with security issues. Raising the idea of holding a referendum to seek independence is not allowed," he said.
Maj Gen Pramote cited Section 1 of the constitution, which defines Thailand as a single, indivisible kingdom.
In response to images of the event's ballot papers, Narisroj Fuangrabil, a former Thai ambassador to Argentina, wrote on Facebook, "We may soon need a visa to travel to Pattani."
Arnond Sakworawich, an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration, also said via Facebook: "Is this an act of separatist rebels?
"The constitution stipulates that Thailand is a single, indivisible kingdom. Is holding a referendum to establish a Patani State a separation from the country?"