M'sia to facilitate negotiations with south insurgents
Countries' national security heads to cooperateMalaysia will become a "facilitator" for talks with separatist groups in the deep South, while the countries' national security council chiefs will tackle the issue together, National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr said yesterday.
"We need Malaysia's help because some insurgents are not based in Thailand, so Malaysia will facilitate by finding out who is involved and who is ready to talk. It depends on the Thai intelligence if the talks can achieve a desirable result," Paradorn said.
He said Thailand need to ensure that it stays a single, undivided state as per the Constitution, and added that if the issue of allowing a special administration zone was brought up, they would look into details and see if it went against the charter. "The talks will let us know what they think and want so we can design solutions, but everything will be based on the rule of law and the Constitution."
Hailing the Thai-Malaysian security cooperation as a good start, Paradorn said negotiations with insurgent groups were needed to end the unrest and that if the authorities got the chance to talk to one group, they will eventually reach all groups.
Paradorn said the joint press conference by Thai and Malaysian prime ministers tomorrow will cover the subject of tackling the unrest in the South. The leaders aim to get their countries' security agencies to discuss and cooperate on the subject. Paradorn added that he believes Malaysian authorities have some information at hand and hence it was necessary for security agencies on both sides to discuss the issue and be on the same page before trying to solve the problems. He said he hoped the cooperation would limit insurgents' movements, as they usually moved across borders, and pressure them into talking with Thai authorities.
As for Patani United Liberation Organisation (Pulo) chief Kasturi Mahkota's appearance on Thai television, Paradorn said Kasturi had chosen to speak out because he did not want to fall off the negotiation wagon. He said Kasturi had participated in talks before but they didn't pan out to much because he was a leading member of an organisation with an ideology rather than arms, but the Thai government still had to listen to what he said.
Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat said Kasturi was not directly involved with the unrest but had experience in the region, thus the government will listen to him as well.
He said the Thai authorities' strategy of tackling the unrest in the South was on the right track, especially in terms of taking a peaceful approach and readiness for talks.
Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4, said 3,400 police officers would be deployed to the region in mid-May. However, if the violence ends by April, the Army Regions 1 to 3 will return to their camps.
"Judging from the current situation, we will be able to see a light [at the end of the tunnel] soon," he added.
Security academic Panitan Wattanayagorn, meanwhile, said that Malaysia was not in a position to help Thailand much because it shared a common border as well as history and culture with people of the deep South. Also, he said, as long as the issue of "two-nationality" people remained unsolved, it would be difficult to bring an end to the violence. Instead, he said, Thailand should ask Indonesia to facilitate talks, adding that Thai-Malaysian cooperation would be more appropriate for modern Islamic studies and culture.
Former deputy permanent secretary for Defence General Waipoj Srinuan asked if Thailand had a good strategy in place because if it went into talks without a clear stance and political will, it could lead to problems in the future. He urged Thailand to understand that Malaysia had its own interests in the matter.
Pattani Senator Anusak Suwanmongkol said the Malaysian government was worried about its popularity and the upcoming national elections, therefore this was not the right time to take up the separatist issue with Malaysia because it could be used as a political tool.
Meanwhile, a national security suspect in his 30s yesterday surrendered to Thai authorities in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district, district chief Somsak Sitthiworakan said, adding that they would get the other 32 inactive insurgents to surrender soon.
In related news, Boonsom Thongsriprai, chairman of the Teachers Federation of the three southern border provinces, called for armoured trucks to transport teachers and educational personnel as well as for at least two security guards to be posted at each school. He also put in a request for security cameras at each school. He said the teachers were afraid the insurgents will launch an attack to avenge the deaths of 16 suspected insurgents in Narathiwat's Bacho district.