Fourth Region army commander Ongkorn Thongprasom said on Saturday that arrests of key members of the separatist movement had caused the Thai South to improve.
“The situation in the three southern border provinces should improve since the militant network has been weakened by the arrest of its top members.” He also surmised that “the militants may have also temporarily scaled down their missions” because the political turmoil in Bangkok had taken away media focus the South.
However, as if to dispel the official announcements that the restive South is calming, a mobile phone bomb went off in Ban La Lae School in Narathiwat. There was also aa few other minor incidents here and there.
This led Provincial Police Region 9 chief Adul Saengsingkaew said that security forces remain on guard for the upcoming Senate elections and the by-election re-runs. Moreover, army intelligence has also warned of the possibility of a massive attack ahead of the second anniversary of the Krue Se mosque massacre on April 28.
On April 24, interim PM Chidchai Vanasatidaya will visit Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat to evaluate the situation. He plans to meet about 300 local intellectuals for their involvement in the government's development plans for the South. These intellectuals include graduates of foreign universities who are active in Islamic and other traditional cultural activities in the South. The Nation reported that this “local wisdom" group will propose to Chidchai “the establishment of an organisation to lay out a development plan covering five areas: education, religion, culture, justice and politics”.
The Nation also reported Anwar Saleh, a former Democrat MP for Pattani, as saying the government should actively strategise and be committed to developing the Thai South. While welcoming the effort to involve young Muslims, Anwar also said the Thaksin government must remove their bias against Muslim youths who have studied abroad, saying that they should not be suspected of being radicals who fuel the separatist movement. Anwar argued that these misconceptions were because of a lack of proper understanding of the “spirit of the community in the region”.
Resentment runs deep in the South and Southern members of the People's Alliance for Democracy have issued a political warning against the Thai Rak Thai Party. They said that if the TRT forces the opening of the House despite the lack of full quorum of 500 MPs, a new uprising from people across Thailand could occur.
Bomb explodes near Narathiwat school; no injuries (The Nation, 17 April 2006)
Arrest of key leaders has reduced attacks (Bangkok Post, 17 April 2006)
Southern PAD warns of people's uprising (The Nation, 17 April 2006)
Chidchai to visit deep South on Monday (The Nation, 16 April 2006)
Chidchai reaches out to students (The Nation, 16 April 2006)
Separatists shoot man for seeing them smuggling arms (Bangkok Post, 16 April 2006)