Disarm troops, NRC says
Govt approach has made problem worse: Anand; calls for talks with militants
Soldiers stand guard outside Kuching Reupoh School in Narathiwat’s Rangae district as students walk in on the first day of the semester yesterday. Security was intensified at the school after a group of local villagers took two teachers hostage last month
The National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) yesterday proposed to set up a special "unarmed army" and engage in dialogue with militants to end violence in the restive South.
The idea is among several comprehensive measures contained in the NRC's final report submitted to the caretaker government yesterday, prompting the dissolution of the 15-month-old body.
The report, dubbed "Overcoming Violence through the Power of Reconciliation", addressed the root causes of violence over the past two and a half years.
The peaceful and reconciliatory measures recommended in the report obviously contradict the government's policy, which has relied heavily on military operations, and overlooks the unique cultural identity of the predominantly Muslim region.
"It's quite obvious that policies and measures in the past two and a half years have not addressed the issue in a realistic manner and that has led to the deterioration of the situation," said Anand Panyarachun, the chairman of the NRC.
The NRC has proposed that the military establish an unarmed "peace force" unit dubbed Santisena ("army of peace") comprising civilians, members of the military and the police to keep the existing conflict from spiralling into more violence.
The unit would have the responsibility to end situations like the recent hostage drama at Ban Kuching Reupah school last month, where Juling Pangamoon was beaten into a coma, according to peace academic Chaiwat Satha-anand, who is also a member of the NRC.
The NRC acknowledged the existence of militants who use violence for many different purposes, including trying to split the three southernmost provinces from the rest of Thailand, but said they are small in number.
The commission proposed engaging in dialogue, if not full negotiations, with the militants and to ensure a coherent security policy.
"This is not a conflict of religion and it is not a separatist issue. Those two issues have certainly been exploited to advance their concerns, but they are not the root cause," Anand said.
As political measures, the commission proposed the passing of the Peaceful Reconciliation in the Southern Border Provinces Act to build lasting peace in the region. The act would establish three bodies: the Peaceful Strategic Administrative Centre for Southern Border Provinces (PSAC), the Southern Border Provinces Area Development Council and the Fund for Healing and Reconciliation.
The PSAC would represent a rebirth of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre dissolved by Thaksin in 2002.
As sustainable reconciliation measures, the NRC proposed enhancing the efficiency of the judicial process, considering the partial use of sharia law and declaring Pattani- Malay as an additional working language.
Anand said he was not that optimistic about a quick solution after the report was submitted to the caretaker government, but hoped it would generate a real desire for a peaceful approach. "Violence begets violence, and it is a vicious circle. Stop that and we will see light at the end of the tunnel," he said.