Ex-Narathiwat MP defends son in separatist row

Ex-Narathiwat MP defends son in separatist row

Soldiers man a security checkpoint near the city gate in Pattani municipality. (File photo)
Soldiers man a security checkpoint near the city gate in Pattani municipality. (File photo)

Najmuddin Umar, a former Bhumjaithai Party MP for Narathiwat, on Wednesday denied any involvement in an alleged separatist move involving a group of student activists in the deep South, saying he was unaware his son had attended their controversial seminar.

The "National Student Movement" or "Pelajar Bangsa", a recently established youth group representing students from Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, gained attention due to a mock referendum held as part of its seminar stirred up controversy. The simulated referendum, which questioned whether there should be a Muslim "Pattani State" independent from Thailand, took place at Prince of Songkla University’s (PSU) Pattani campus on June 7.

According to Mr Najmuddin, he only learned that his son was among the activists participating in the seminar when the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) Region 4 Office issued a statement saying the and Provincial Police Region 9 were investigating the group’s activities and monitoring them on social media.

Mr Najmuddin said he then contacted the security authorities, who informed him that some of the activists were suspected of having violated the law. However, the activists were willing to provide a statement defending their "good intentions", he said.

Najmuddin Umar (Facebook)

The former MP said he was informed that a similar student activity had taken place a decade ago inside the office of the campus president, attracting around 100 participants but receiving no media attention.

Mr Najmuddin said he believes the students did not intend to violate any laws. Their referendum was clearly a simulation — as all the attendees knew — because it was not directed by any formal committee or organisation, he added.

The seminar organised by the Faculty of Political Science had less than a hundred attendees, who openly expressed their opinions, according to the politician.

“I would like to explain this to the rest of country. Don’t panic about what happened," said Mr Najmuddin. "I also agree with the decision by the National Security Council (NSC) and Isoc Region 4 to look into the student group’s activities.”

If they are proven to be unlawful, they should be given a verbal warning instead of heavy punitive measures, he said, adding that his son insisted on having acted in an open and transparent manner during the seminar.

Following the seminar, outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the NSC to take action against the group of activists that called for the referendum.

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