Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat on Saturday opposed calls for the separation of the deep South from Thailand, saying the party stands by the principle that Thailand is an inseparable kingdom.
Mr Pita, the MFP's prime minister candidate, said the same administrative system must apply to the whole country including the three southernmost provinces. The deep South also should try to reduce violence and conflicts in the region.
His remarks came after a group of student activists on Wednesday promoted separation of the deep South at a seminar titled "Self-determination" at the political science faculty of Prince of Songkla University Pattani campus.
Each participant was given a ballot asking whether people in the southern border provinces should have the right to vote for a "Pattani State", or the separation of the three provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four districts of Thepa, Na Thawi, Chana and Saba Yoi in Songkhla from Thailand. The seminar introduced "Pelajar Bangsa" or "national student movement".
The seminar activity prompted security authorities to launch a probe into the individuals concerned out of fear the call could lead to disunity. The prime minister also instructed the National Security Council (NSC) to take action.
Mr Pita said he was initially informed that MFP list MP-designate Romdon Panjor and other party members did not take part. A working panel of the eight prospective coalition partners on peace in the deep South met on Friday at the MFP's headquarters to discuss the issue.
Mr Romdon said the alliance calls for a greater decentralisation of power and public participation, not secessionism which is against the constitution. However, he said there should be a forum for an exchange of views and that gathering input from student groups is part of the panel's working process.
Mr Romdon said the panel initially agreed that the role of security forces should be reduced while that of civilians, especially MPs, should be increased.
Assoc Prof Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security expert, said the seminar openly discussed "a referendum on separation" and featured a senior politician from one of the coalition parties.
Political activist Srisuwan Janya also lodged a complaint with the Metropolitan Police Bureau against the student activists, accusing them of violating the charter.