ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
February 13, 2008
THAILAND/SELF-RULE FOR SOUTH
Public hearings will be held in the three southern border provinces--Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat--to determine whether a special administrative zone should be established in the region in an attempt to end continuing violence in the Muslim-predominant region, Thai Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said on Tuesday.
However, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej issued cautions regarding the idea, warning that it was a "delicate issue" and that his government would adopt its policy on tackling the continuing insurgency in the region only after discussing the matter with military leaders.
"Public opinion will be gauged on whether the area should be turned into a special administrative zone like those in China and Germany," the minister said."If the local population is receptive to the idea, the ministry would consult the military first before any action to be taken."
However, the minister ruled out the possibility of granting autonomy to the southern border region, emphasising that Thailand is a sovereign state that cannot be divided.
Outlining his policy in tackling the violence in the restive South, Mr. Chalerm said he would not travel to the troubled region as that would not help end the violence. Visits in the past of senior goverment officials often met with more violent attacks by insurgents who staged violent campaign in retaliation against the state authorities.
The interior ministry, he said, would work with the military to integrate their cooperation based mainly on the military strategies in solving the problems in parallel with applying the rule of law to ensure the people of government sincerity in tackling the problems.
The ideas were conceived following discussions with provincial governors and the director of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), the minister said.
He also promised that the SBPAC would not be disbanded, but adjustment would be made to improve the effectiveness of the agency with local staff's opinions sought. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who is concurrently defence minister, would be consulted on the matter.
Meanwhile, violence continued as the new minister outlined his policy towards the region.
Police in Pattani said a 52-year old villager was shot by a gunman passenger on a motorcycle. The incident took place while the ill-fated local resident riding a motorcycle on his way home in Mai Kan district. The victim's body was burned before the two attackers left the scene.
Elsewhere in Narathiwat, police and marines increased security measures at the provincial airport and along all routes to the airport after a large pit was found just one metre away from the perimeter fence. It was believed to be the work of presumed insurgents preparing to bury explosives as part of an attack.
And in Sungai Padi district of the province, security forces raided a rubber plantation and found 12 sticks of dynamite, two packages of C-4 explosives and other explosive materials in a large tank buried underground. Forensic experts collected fingerprints and DNA samples of suspects for further investigation.