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Junta takes key role for peace talks in South

Almost a month after seizing power from a civilian government, the military has taken on the role of initiating peace talks with separatists in the southern border region.

The move is part of the restructuring of state agencies responsible for dealing with security affairs and the insurgency problem in the deep South.

The military will take over the key role of initiating policies and negotiations relating to the restive region, and they will not allow politicians or political appointees to dominate such matters as was the case in the past, according to an Army source.

On Wednesday, there was a meeting of representatives from the relevant security agencies. These included the National Security Council (NSC), Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), and National Intelligence Agency. The participants discussed the framework and structure of the strategy for dealing with the insurgency problem.

The military has a blueprint on a new structure of the relevant agencies for tackling the problems, the source said yesterday.

The security agencies will convene their next meeting next Monday, when the new structure will be revealed, the source said, adding that further discussion is required to "design in detail a mechanism for peace talks".

As part of the new structure, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha will head the policy-making section and work with the NSC in dealing with problems in the South.

The ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will issue orders or announcements about the legal status of future peace talks to ensure the continuation of the process, the source said yesterday.

The NCPO views the peace talks as important and will attempt to get rid of obstacles that have hampered previous negotiations, according to the source. However, the ruling junta would not allow the idea of autonomy to be raised during future talks, the source added.

Malaysian role

The Malaysian government will be invited by Thai authorities to act as a facilitator in future talks with Muslim separatists in the deep South, according to the source.

During the tenure of the ousted government led by the Pheu Thai Party, there were peace talks with insurgents in the deep South. The talks, said to be initiated by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, failed to lead to an accord between the opposing sides.

Prayuth yesterday approved in principle a new structure for administering the southern border provinces, according to Isoc spokesman Colonel Banphot Pooppian.

Banphot said Prayuth believed that the new structure would better facilitate operations to solve problems and tackle insurgency. He said the new structure would also integrate the operations of all agencies from policy-level to field operation level and would ensure consistency in the operations. The new structure has three levels - policy level, intermediary committee and field operation level.

The policy-level structure is headed by Prayuth himself and has the NSC as its adviser, Banphot said.

The policy board will be in charge of drawing up policies for dealing with the situation in the region from 2015 to 2017, he said.

The intermediary committee, meanwhile, is chaired by the deputy Army chief with the NSC secretary-general as its secretary.

It will be in charge of integrating operations of all agencies. Isoc and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) would be the main agencies responsible for integrating operations. They would also be accountable for related ministries and problem-solving projects with regard to national security.

The operation level will be under the responsibility of Isoc Area 4, Banphot said. The SBPAC would establish a SBPAC forward command as a unit under the Isoc Area 4 forward command, he added.


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