NSC Chief exceeds his brief?
National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Paradorn Pattanathabutr's statement yesterday suggesting the controversial idea of a Pattani metropolitan administration has raised questions over whether he has overplayed his role as a negotiator.Whether it was a slip of the tongue or a "lack of savvy" as a key negotiator between Thai authorities and insurgents' representatives in the ongoing peace dialogue, the concern is that Paradorn has made a sensitive issue public before it is even discussed at the first meeting, planned for March 28.
Following a Cabinet meeting that approved a three-month extension of the emergency decree in the violence-plagued deep South, Paradorn was asked by reporters whether the peace process would end up discussing a Pattani metropolitan administration as a precondition to establishing peace in the region.
He replied "Yes, it is looking that way".
His statement was rebuked shortly after by former deputy prime minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa, who said the issue was very sensitive and would affect the country's future.
He said the matter would need thorough and careful study and that the government had no plan to establish any special administration in the wake of the peace dialogue, the first round of which begins on March 28 in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha was later also dismissive, saying that the peace dialogue at this stage would involve only areas of discussion and future agendas.
In a separate, extended interview, Paradorn said the establishment of a Pattani metropolitan administration "was possible".
However, he said he anticipated that the insurgents' representatives, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Co-ordinate (BRN) members who will attend the meeting, would be call for the immediate release of ageing convicted or imprisoned inmates, and that a special administrative scheme to fit the local culture and Muslim way of life, as well as various development projects, would also be tabled. "I believe the process [of eventually establishing a Pattani metropolitan administration] would be a long one, and the issue [if agree in the dialogue] would need to be approved by Parliament," he said.
The NSC will meet today to consider the topics to be discussed on March 28, and to select 11 other members of the Thai delegation.
Paradorn and Southern Provinces Border Administrative Centre secretary-general Tawee Sodsong were among the four representatives on the Thai side who signed an agreement with four people representing the insurgents at a meeting on February 28 in Malaysia.
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 like 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.
A senior NSC source said a widespread pardon for various types of insurgents on the security authorities' wanted list is an equally controversial issue. This is another matter expected to be tabled by the BRN members, either at the March 28 meeting or in future sessions. There are a large number of insurgents who remain active that reportedly want unconditional pardons in exchange for laying down their weapons.