Does NSC chief's 'gaffe' reveal secret intent of the government?
Are they prepared to give autonomy to Pattani local administration?The public statement by National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattahathabutr about the controversial idea of an autonomous Pattani metropolitan administration as a possible ultimate solution to the violence in the deep South has been met with consternation in many quarters, not least because it was made prior to the talks with insurgents' representatives on March 28.
However, it could simply reflect the possibility that the intention was always to give the insurgents what is said to be one of their key demands, while the peace dialogue had merely been established to prevent the public from criticising the government.
Whatever the reason, given his role as a key negotiator representing the authorities, the statement has put the government side immediately at a disadvantage, as the insurgents' representatives - members of Barasi Revolusi Nasional Coordinate (BRN) - expected to attend the meeting in Langkawi, had not yet tabled the issue, although it is believed to have been the key goal inspiring their armed struggle.
No agendas have been drawn up for the talks by either side, as the March 28 session is just the first round of discussion after an agreement to constitute efforts to end the violent insurgency was signed on February 28 at a meeting in Malaysia, which has offered to
broker the dialogue.
The idea of establishing a Pattani metropolitan administration - whether it is granted full autonomy, as the insurgents are believed to want, a degree of self-government akin to the administration governing Pattaya City or the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, or semi-autonomy as proposed as a compromise by academics - has been long disputed among the authorities and the public, without ever winning acceptance.
Senior members of House of Representatives and senatorial panels have reportedly complained about Paradorn's statement, saying that if the ultimate goal of establishing a Pattanai metropolitan administration was effectively conceded to the insurgency by Thai authorities from the outset, there was no need to discuss the issue further.
"A 15-member team comprising officials from the Thai authorities and members of the public would not really be required at all, because the objective would have been declared for them," said one of parliamentarians, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Shortly after Paradorn made his statement on Monday, Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the process had not yet reached any conclusion. "Paradorn could well be jumping the gun," he said.
Warnings have since been secretly given to Paradorn, reportedly either by the government or King Prajadhipok's Institute, which has been monitoring the situation and studying possible solutions for ending the violent insurgency.
He has been urged to speak less about the peace dialogue, and indeed also about other issues regarding political and tactical solutions now being implemented to deal with the violence.
A senior King Prajadhipok's Institute official, General Ekkachai Sriwilas, said an eight-point master plan for dealing with the violence had stressed the need for a united approach.
"Teamwork is stated in the plan, with all parties involved focused as a core group. No one should act as a solitary hero in implementing the measures," he said.
Former National Security Council chief Prasong Soonsiri expressed surprise over Paradorn's statement, and questioned his role as a key negotiator in the process.
"This will fully benefit the insurgency and the BRN," he was quoted as saying.
But this is not the first example of a verbal blunder related to the notion of a Pattani metropolitan administration causing major embarrassment to the speaker.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who on Wednesday toned down Paradorn's statement by blaming the media for misquoting him, once backtracked from his own public remarks mentioning the idea when he was interior minister during the Samak Sundaravej government in 2008.