Bangkok – Having achieved little with its conventional warfare tactics, the Thai army now hopes to turn the tide of the conflict in the deep South in its favour by engaging the increasingly bold insurgents in guerilla warfare. In line with a strategy review ordered by army chief, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the army will revamp its training for soldiers by switching from conventional warfare to ambush and urban combat training. Paramilitary rangers in the deep South have already started to adopt such tactics.
During a meeting with unit commanders on Nov 4, Gen Sonthi ordered that five more companies of paramilitary rangers, or about 400 men, be deployed in addition to the 20 companies already operating in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani to counter the insurgency with guerrilla warfare tactics.
Deputy army chief, Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng, said the commander also made it clear that the army's education department should overhaul training for officers and conscripts in line with the changing situation.
Gen Sonthi, who has a strong background in special warfare, said he wanted the training to focus on ambush, urban warfare and swift operations rather than conventional practice. More young officers should also be deployed at warfare units along the border to reinforce security strength, he added.
Col Thanathip said the department must study how to modernise training and may have to scrap outdated training techniques using old weapons such as bayonet-fitted rifles because there was no longer hand-to-hand fighting in large-scale combat.
The change would help boost the efficiency of the army's warfare operations in different locations, especially guerrilla ambush strategies, in line with the global situation.
In another development, martial law was imposed on two more Muslim districts of Songkhla on Nov 3. The move came hours after an explosion blacked out the entire city of Narathiwat late Nov 2.
"Insurgents have used some areas in Songkhla to hide weapons and other devices used for causing unrest. Their violent acts have also spread into Chana and Thepha districts of Songkhla. To enable security officers to cope with the violence, martial law is necessary,'" Fourth Army chief Lt-Gen Khwanchart Khaharn said.
Martial law was earlier imposed in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla. Martial law was later replaced by the executive decree on national emergencies. However, the decree was imposed only on the three southernmost provinces, said an army spokesman. The districts of Songkhla which had earlier been under martial law were Saba Yoi and Na Thawi.
* Army to change its training procedures (Bangkok Post, Nov 6)
* Martial law declared in parts of Songkhla (The Nation, Nov 4)