- - Can the Canadian model offer a solution for southern Thailand?
- - Running out of ideas in the South
- Southern militants have scant desire to negotiate
- Thailand should just accept that South is different
- Malaysian PM's visit to show up lack of deep South action
- Najib may have some answers to deep South problems
- Still a long battle ahead in the quest for peace in the South
- Too many cooks spoiling the broth
- Seeing things from a different perspective
- Peace in the South demands historical recognition
- New ideas necessary to resolve deep South crisis
- Massacre probe must provide answers
- Money goes to waste in the deep South
- A long way to go before peace is possible in the South
- Patani Malay separatists at a crossroads
- Anupong's remarks may add fuel to the fire in the South
- Military alone cannot solve problems in the deep South
- Anupong's remarks may add fuel to the fire in the South
- Let's not allow mosque attack to derail peace bid
- South policy still lacks understanding
- Hard line lingers on the deep South
- Malays strive to keep alive the spirit of the kris
- Different approach needed in the deep South
- No one wants to live under colonial rule
- When will we really understand the South?
- Abhisit right to put the South on the agenda
- Can the Democrats stand up to the Army tactics in the South
- How long can we ignore the deep South?
- No time for complacency in the South
- The South is a long way from Bangkok
- Unofficial talks may fan the flames of insurgency
- Is Chavalit fostering false hope in the deep South?
- Analysis :Ceasefire in south is just too good to be true
- Pornthip means well, but she misunderstands the south
- Army's abuses come home to roost in South
- Deep south insurgency puts strain on thai-malay relations
- In the South, the media, too, must think outside the box
- Lessons from the southern insurgency not learned
- Insurgents make it clear there is no neutral ground
- BANGKOKIAN: Odd silence on south
- Political rumblings in the deep South
- No progress in checking unrest
- Hope for the southern poor
- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
- 'Pushing people towards the insurgents'
- Analysis :Premier has wasted opportunity in South
- Crisis in south rooted in ethnic Malay identity
- Bombs 'like those in Bangkok'
- Schools aim to rise from ashes
- Harsh realities mar peace efforts in South
- Scars of Krue Se bloodbath refuse to go away
- Off-the-wall comments, suggestions have not helped
- Anti-terror effort needs closer cooperation: Nitya
- Old separatists still dream of a free patani
- Mahathir: Talk with exiled South leaders
- Military to enforce ban on public gatherings
- Rewards dropped for the arrest of militants - South to get 3,000 more troops after violence escalates
- Pulo alleges targeted killings
- 'Talks vital to restore peace in the South'
- No end in sight to violence in south - PREMIER'S FIRST BORDER TOUR: Surayud apologises for govt's abuses in South
- Government reaches out to the South
- The long road to peace in the deep South
- Just a local affair or prelude to terrorism?
- Insurgency 'has crossed a new threshold'
- South an elusive 'spider's web' for generals
- Southeast Asia the second front of global terror?
- Sonthi makes a needed overture in the South
- Southern blasts clear way for army plans
- Soldier killed by bomb in Narathiwat
- Volunteer shot dead in South
- Force alone won't win battle with insurgents
- Six dead in series of bombings, shootings in Yala, Narathiwat
- South militants number 3,000
- Army chief 'welcome in restive South'
- Push for Sondhi to boost his role
- Bombs, bullets kill 3 on weekend
- Bombings spark a scramble for excuses
- Don't make us your scapegoat: Malaysia
- Lull ends in savage wave of 44 blasts
- Admin body urged for South
- What chance of reconciliation in the South?
- More arrests in teachers' assault case
- Troubled school gets 20 teachers
- Letter from KUCHING REUPAH
- South militancy has been years in making
- More held over brutal beating of 2 teachers
- Army 'must respond quicker'
- 3 arrests over hostage taking
- Hopelessly adrift in the stormy south
- HOSTAGE TAKING: Army's image takes beating
- Juling's vision of peace
- RESTIVE SOUTH: 100 schools to shut for a week

HOSTAGE TAKING: Army's image takes beating

Published on May 23, 2006 - Sonthi admits teachers should have been rescued in minutes, calls for investigation

The Army's failure to rescue two teachers nearly beaten to death last week reflects badly on the military in the restive region and highlights its lack of a contingency plan for situations that call for a quick response, a mid-ranking officer sent to analyse the incident said yesterday.

Police yesterday arrested four suspects including a 44-year-old woman who allegedly encouraged locals to take the teachers hostage on Friday, and a male teenager who allegedly beat the teachers. One of the two taken hostage, Juling Pangamoon, remains in a coma.

Army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said yesterday the military regretted the situation and offered apologies to the families of the teachers. Deployment to rescue the pair should have been made in 10 minutes rather than two hours, he said, noting he had instructed Fourth Army chiefs to conduct an investigation into the failure.

One investigating officer said the morale of troops on the frontline had taken a nose-dive, because of the indecisiveness of senior officers, who would not give their troops orders - either to rescue the teachers or take some other form of action.

The officer said 16 rangers had been on foot patrol when they encountered a gathering of about 200 people in front of the school in Kuching Reupah village. They immediately radioed the Fourth Army's Task Force 34 in Rangae district, just 30 minutes away.

The Rangers asked for reinforcements and the go-ahead to move, but Task Force 34 (TF34) commanders opted to wait for further instruction from Maj-General Samret Srirai, the deputy commander of the Fourth Army Area, whose career has been spent largely in Special Operations.

Headquarters was told the teachers were being held hostage.

The officer said it remained unclear whether TF34 had been able to contact Samret or any other commanding officer, but its soldiers were instructed to opt for a route that took them two hours to get to the school.

Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasathidya said authorities took time to organise reinforcements as an initial report indicated there were as many as 800 people at the hostage site, when in fact only 50 people were there.

Routes to the scene were also blocked with logs and metal spikes that had been scattered across the roads, he said.

But the investigating officer questioned his remarks, saying that even with clearing the roadways, shorter routes would have taken no more than 30 minutes.

By the time TF34 reinforcements arrived at the school the two teachers were well on their way to the hospital, both in critical condition.

The officer said the sluggish response reflected not only communication problems in the chain of command, but also problems with how orders were carried out.

He said investigations showed a lack of decisiveness on the part of the military leadership, namely the commander of the Fourth Army Area, Maj-General Ongkorn Thongprasom, who has offered to be stand down as punishment for the failure.

"This is not the first time. There have been lots of gunfights in the past, but the reinforcement always come too late," said the mid-ranking officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The problem with the military's handling of the South is that there is no contingency plan to support troops on the frontline," he said.

Requests or reports from frontline troops, regardless of their rank, should given serious consideration, rather than requiring the top brass to make final decisions.

"This kind of leadership has taken its toll on the morale of men. We need to improve the speed and response times dramatically if we wish to meet these kinds of challenges," the officer said.

Three Blackhawk helicopters and another from the police force were sitting at TF34 headquarters in Rangae district at the time of the incident, but on that day their only task was to ferry VIPs to visit the two teachers.

Prayut Sivayawiroj,
Piyanart Srivalo
The Nation

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