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17 ministries to be grouped in 'Pentagon II' plan for South

A special Cabinet meeting aimed at coping with a spike in insurgency violence in the South will be held today, bringing together officials from 17 ministries that will be grouped under the new "Pentagon II" command centre.

Government spokesman Sansanee Nakapong, quoting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said the government's and security authorities' strategies in the South had been "right on track" but integration between relevant agencies was needed. Pentagon II aims to make |coordination and integration easier.

Yingluck later refused to comment on proposals by former Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) chief General Pallop Pinmanee to carry out drastic suppression on insurgents. She said only that the situation in the deep South was a sensitive issue and the |government would handle it under policies devised by the Pentagon II centre.

She said the government was willing to cooperate with any party, even the opposition Democrat Party, for which the South is traditionally a political stronghold.

"Today's meeting will discuss operational plans in detail to define new roles of each of the 17 ministries involved in the integration, while morale-boosting plans for local residents will also be conducted further," she added.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha, who is in charge of Pentagon II military tactics and operations, said imposition of curfews would not be |discussed in today's meeting because they could be put into effect immediately under orders from the Fourth Army Area |without Cabinet approval.

Yuthasak, Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat and Army Commander-in-Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha will visit the South on Friday.

The Pentagon II command centre will be located in the ISOC compound near Government House.

Yuthasak confirmed Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung's |statement on Monday that there were 40 insurgents interested in surrendering to authorities, but the number cited by Yuthasak was 50.

Meanwhile, a Songkhla-based think tank warned of more violence toward the end of Ramadan, saying that it would be the most violent in the past eight years.

Asst Prof Srisomphob Jitphiromsri, director of the Centre for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity (CSCD), said insurgent attacks were larger and more frequent this year, resulting in 20 deaths and injuries to 40 people.

He said the recent attacks were an indication that insurgents had distorted Islamic teachings by intensifying the level of violence during Ramadan. He did not elaborate.

Srisomphob warned of further increased violence and more frequent attacks in the final 10 days of Ramadan, from Friday until August 19, which is was regarded as the holiest period.

In Pattani's Yarang district yesterday, three soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb went off as their transport truck passed. Six other soldiers complained of discomfort in the chest but had no visible wounds.

The 15-kilogram explosive device was stuck in a fire extinguisher and buried in the road. It was detonated through wiring connected to a battery by insurgents hiding 300 metres away. There was no |gunfight after and the wounded soldiers were safely transported to hospitals.

In Yala, a suspect in Monday's |motorcycle-bomb attack at an Islamic Bank branch in Raman district has been identified as Sofwan Samah.

The man who rode the explosives-packed motorcycle and detonated the bomb was seen in security camera footage. He is about 170 centimetres tall. Six |soldiers were slightly wounded in the blast, police said.

The bank reopens today, after closing yesterday for one day.


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