Ministry backs enforcement of ISA
Move may open way for insurgents to join govt plea-bargaining dealThe Justice Ministry yesterday pledged full support for the enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to pave the way for Muslim militants to be pardoned under a plea-bargaining scheme.
A decision on the expansion of the ISA enforcement areas would be made before the current period of emergency decree enforcement is due to be renewed on March 19, Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said.
The support was expressed during a meeting of the Operational Centre for the Implementation of Policy and Strategy to Resolve Problems of the Southern Border Province held at the Justice Ministry.
The meeting was chaired by Pracha and joined by representatives of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), the National Security Council, the Central Institute of Forensic Science, the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney-General.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung and the Isoc proposed that the ISA should replace the enforcement of the emergency decree in most parts of the deep South so that Muslim militants could enter a plea-bargaining scheme under Article 21 of the law as a way to bring about peace in the region.
Currently, the ISA is enforced in four border districts of Songkhla - Thepha, Chana, Saba Yoi and Na Thawi - and in Pattani's Mae Lan district.
Following the three-hour meeting, Pracha told reporters that the Isoc had been assigned to consider expanding the areas of ISA enforcement.
The Isoc would be required to inform the operational centre of its decision. The centre would in turn inform the Cabinet for a final decision, Pracha said.
"The decision on the ISA expansion before the [three-month] enforcement of the emergency decree expires on March 19 will depend on the actual situation," Pracha said.
Pracha said that if the ISA's Article 21 is enforced to pardon militants, the Isoc would set up a screening committee to identify eligible militants, as opposed to those insurgents who have committed serious crimes. Pracha said public prosecutors would sit on the screening committee.
Pracha added that government agencies concerned would step up coordination of law enforcement for areas outside the ISA enforcement.
Charnchao Chaiyanukit, deputy permanent secretary for Justice who heads a subcommittee in charge of law enforcement at the operational centre, said it was expected that the Isoc would announce new areas under the ISA enforcement before March 19.
Charnchao said the meeting also discussed ways of showing leniency to militants if they live outside the areas under ISA enforcement.
He said all security agencies would have to consider which groups or which individuals should be allowed to enter the plea-bargaining scheme.
"It will be the first time that leniency will be granted without the enforcement of Article 21," Charnchao said.
He added that it would require several steps before more areas of ISA enforcement would be announced.