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Academics, religious leaders oppose curfew option in South

Academics and religious leaders are opposed to the possible imposition of a curfew in the deep South in the wake of recent bomb attacks, saying that such drastic action would draw international sanctions on the counterinsurgency operations while also affecting the daily lives of local residents.

Meanwhile, security authorities are looking for eight vehicles reported stolen, which they fear could be used in future carbomb attacks, especially in Songkhla and Pattani.

In Pattani, three missing vehicles have reportedly been stuffed with explosives and are ready for use. The three vehicles are a goldcoloured Toyota Vigo pickup with Phor Kor 7930 Songkhla licence plate; a grey Toyota Vigo pickup with Sor Yor 6602 Bangkok plate, and a brown Isuzu DMax Gold Series with no known licence plate details.

In Songkhla, the five missing vehicles are: an Isuzu DMax pickup; a fourdoor Toyota Vigo pickup, a gold Toyota Vigo pickup, a black Mitsubishi pickup, with Bor Chor 2250 Yala licence plate, and a red Mitsubishi sedan, with Kor Khor 2482 Yala plate.

Curfews will lead to a drop in local residents' morale and their confidence in authorities' capacity, Assoc Prof Srisomphob Jitphiromsri, a lecturer on political science at Prince of Songkhla University, said. He said curfews may improve the situation while possibly convincing the international community that violence would also be used by authorities in counterinsurgency operations.

A former director of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC), Niphon Bunyaphattharo, said curfews would inflame the situation, and arouse international concerns about authorities' reaction to an increase in insurgency violence. He also dismissed a socalled eyeforaneye response from authorities, which he said would lead to the escalation of the insurgency campaign into a religious war.

The chief religious leader in Yala, Wan Abdulkordeh Waemustopha, said a curfew during the ongoing Ramadan period would certainly affect Muslims, their religious practices and their daytime fast. The Defence Ministry and security authorities are evaluating the imposition of curfews, which they said earlier would be in effect, if imposed, after Ramadan ends on August 21.

Imposition of curfew, along with new military tactics including aerial armed reconnaissance, was among strategies revealed by Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat in response to a series of carbomb attacks, followed by media criticism of the government’s inert reaction to the attacks. A proposal by the Internal Security Operations Command that it should be put in effect, if imposed, after Ramadan, has been submitted to the Defence Ministry for consideration.

Fourth Army Area commander LtGeneral Udomchai Thammasarorat said a curfew was merely an option and that local residents had cooperated with security officials in the deep South. He did not say explicitly whether he personally agreed with it being imposed in the deep South. In four Yawispeaking districts of Songkhla, local residents have been alert and ready for self protection, while allout security measures are already in place," he added.

The Army said later that curfews were now only an option and would not be imposed entirely in the three provinces of Yala, Narathiwat or Pattani, but only in areas prone to insurgent activities or necessary security operations, said spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Pattani police said one of the three detained suspects allegedly involved with the shooting dead of four soldiers in MaYor district was cooperating and giving useful information. The unnamed man said newly recruited insurgents were from three Yawispeaking districts in Songkhla, Raman district in Yala and Ba Cho district in Narathiwat, under the command of the foreigntrained Runda Kumpalan Kecil (RKK) based in Pattani.

The bomb attack on CS Pattani Hotel in Pattani was blamed on six insurgents, including a getaway driver and two lookouts. This attack was possibly commanded by Mosoreh Tueramah, a native of Pattani living in Muang district, and an explosives expert, security sources said.

A village head based in Panareh district of Pattani was yesterday shot dead while on his way for a Muslim prayer event. Witnesses told police that two gunmen on a white Honda Wave motorcycle approached Mayusoh Dorloh and fired two shots at him before fleeing. The victim died at the scene.


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