Chalerm to meet Mahathir over South
A volunteer ranger was killed and two others wounded yesterday when a M26 grenade hidden under the driver's seat exploded while their pickup was travelling on a road in Yala's Raman district.Manat Satsue, 27, Vichit Chomwichian, 28, and Chatmongkol Thongthammachart, 27, were sent to Yala Hospital, where Manat died.
The three men were returning from a garage where the vehicle had been repaired.
In Bangkok, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohammad had agreed to meet a delegation of 15 officials led by Chalerm on Langkawi Island on March 28.
The BRN group that held peace talks with Pol Lt General Paradorn Pattanathabut, secretary-general of the National Security Council, was the "real" force behind the insurgency in the South, he said.
"The Malaysian prime minister also insists that they are the real ones. If not, why would he want to host the meeting and why would the Malaysian supreme commander and other Malaysian top security officials want to take part in the meeting? If Malaysia refuses to harbour insurgents, we'll benefit," he said.
Seeking reconciliation in the troubled South was not a pipe dream, he said.
"We dream of establishing peace through negotiations and reducing conflicts but critics are envious of us and do nothing. The government has taken the right path."
It was proper for the military to represent the Thai side in talks with the rebels since they had been working in the area and knew it the best. The government had to listen to them, he said.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had given him a clear order to inspect the restive region following an escalation in violence and he had no choice but to obey.
"If I don't go to the South, I will definitely be sacked,'' he said.
Foreign Minister Surapong Towichakchaikul said the meeting between the NSC's Paradorn and the BRN on February 28 was only about agreeing to hold peace talks in the future.
"If it were a negotiation, we'd have to upgrade the status of the group. According to our Constitution, separatism is not allowed. We don't want anyone to politicise this issue and create public misunderstanding. The agreement to hold peace talks does not guarantee that there will be no violence in the South,'' he said.
Although the government had been ridiculed for dealing with a faction that had no real power in the separatist movement, it was at least getting the ball rolling and that would help encourage other groups to initiate dialogue.
"If we don't make a start, we won't be able to do anything. We're ready to talk with other groups,'' he said.