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Increased troop deployment after security meeting on Thai South

Updated On: Apr 27, 2007

As much as the Thai government tries to deny it, the situation in the South is spiraling out of control.

Obviously the peaceful overtures which have held so much hope for the Surayud government and the junta have not appeased the militants or the people.

The violence has increased to the degree that the authorities have realized that there is a shortage of troops for peace and security maintenance in the Southern provinces. PM Surayud announced on Wednesday that Council of National Security Chief, Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, has planned to reinforce the military deployment by “assigning… rangers in a bid to tackle the continuing insurgency”, the Bangkok Post reported. Surayud said, “We now have small numbers of military forces stationed there, while our opponents make more and more problems. We need to adjust our strategies all the time.” He also admitted that “there had been poor coordination among civilians, police and the military entrusted with curbing the violence and that this had obstructed efforts to bring peace to the region”.

As expected, not many regular soldiers are willing to take up postings in the South. In order to make it more attractive, the Bangkok Post said that the “army is preparing to boost troop numbers in the far South with a promise of promotion for soldiers willing to risk their lives in the insurgency-torn region”. The army is hoping to target the non-commissioned soldiers to take up these positions so as to enlarge “the 15th infantry division by another 15,000 soldiers”.

In addition, the latest military plans to quell the violence in the South now include the aim of having a battalion in each district and to send in more paramilitary forces. Sonthi was reported by the Bangkok Post as saying that these “battalions would be mixed, bringing together soldiers, rangers and local officials [and] the army would determine the proportions of forces in each battalion”.

On top of these military policies, there are also discussions for amnesty laws and a proposed limit on overseas studies by students from the South. Surayud said that the “Education Ministry will be asked to closely follow up on overseas studies among those students and the Foreign Ministry and the Office of Civil Service Commission would take care of them”, the Bangkok Post noted.

It is uncertain if these discussions will amount to anything. Already the situation has worsened to the degree that international observers are expressing concern. ThaisNews reported that the European Commission’s External Directorate led by Mr. Jean-Francois Cautain, Delegate of European Commission to Thailand, has asked to “study the possibility of the cooperation between Thailand and European Commission to solve Thailand’s southern violence”. The representatives have “shown much interest in Thailand’s justice process to end the violence, the cooperation between Thailand’s private and state sector to solve the problem, and the assistance provided to those affected by the southern unrest situation”.

On a separate note, the Bangkok Post has reported that US ambassador Ralph Boyce has called Thailand to “negotiate with US pharmaceutical companies for a reduction in the price of patented drugs, rather than acquiring cheap generic versions through compulsory licensing”. This appeal was made during the meeting with the Thai Public Health Minister Dr Mongkol na Songkhla and other senior health officials on Wednesday.  (26 April 2007)

Sources:

US envoy urges drug talks (Bangkok Post, 23 April 2007)

Army to offer incentive to serve in South (Bangkok Post, 25 April 2007)

South may get battalion per district (Bangkok Post, 26 April 2007)

Army says not enough troops in South(Bangkok Post, 25 April 2007)

Army to offer incentive to serve in South (Bangkok Post, 25 April 2007)

European Commission's External Directorate expresses concern over Thailand's southern unrest (ThaisNews, 25 April 2007)