Amnesty for rebels – panacea to Thailand's woes?

Updated On: Aug 19, 2005

Bangkok - As the search for a lasting solution to the insurgency in the deep South continues, the idea of a general amnesty for southern rebels has emerged as a possible solution to the region's problems. In fact, the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) and Muslim leaders are now talking about an amnesty as the "only way" to bring about reconciliation in the restive region. 

    The commission plans to ask the government to issue an amnesty law that would allow separatist militants and suspected collaborators to return to normal life, said Mr Voravit Baru, an NRC member and deputy rector of the Prince of Songhkhla University's Pattani campus, on Aug 17.
    Mr Voravit said the NRC believes that an amnesty would constitute a "most reconciliatory'' gesture that would help ease tensions in the region.
    ''It would convince the people that the government is definitely taking a reconciliatory line. Those who have done nothing wrong but fled out of fear would feel it is safe to return," he added.
    NRC members had already talked to Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit about the possibility of an amnesty. The matter would be raised for further discussion at an NRC meeting on Aug 22, especially the question whether the proposed amnesty should also cover those facing serious criminal charges, Mr Voravit said. 
    Mr Waedueramae Mamingji, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Pattani, said a general amnesty would be the best way to tackle southern unrest. ''This would encourage those who fled abroad out of fear to return home,'' he said.

* General amnesty hailed as 'only way' (The Nation, Aug 17)