Bangkok - Violence is rising in Thailand’s deep South because local residents are still not giving the authorities their full cooperation. In fact, the government's community relations campaigns aimed at strengthening ties with locals in the mainly-Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat have failed, said the National Police chief, Police-General Kowit Wattana.
''Despite many preventive measures, police have failed to cope with the unrest. Lack of cooperation from local people is partly to blame for the problem. Local people should cooperate with the authorities, otherwise the situation will worsen. In many cases when insurgents carried out attacks and then melted into the local population, residents tried to cover up their activities,'' Pol-Gen Kowit said on July 1.
His gloomy portrayal of the southern situation contrasted sharply with remarks made earlier by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Pol-Gen Chidchai Wannasathi. The latter had said that the situation had gradually improved with the locals providing full cooperation to the authorities.
Between Jan 1 and June 20 this year, more than 200 people had been killed and some 600 injured from violent attacks in the three provinces of the deep South.
In another development, Muslim leaders in the south said the military and police must use peaceful means to end the violence in the region.
Mr Waedueramae Mamingji, chairman of Pattani's provincial Islamic panel, said: "We've talked and feel that the violence in the South has intensified. If the military and police continue to use force, it will only result in setbacks and make matters worse. So we believe only peaceful means can make things turn around. Soldiers and police, therefore, need to smile more often at villagers."
Mr Waedueramae, along with several Muslim leaders, held an hour-long meeting on July 2 with 9th Regional Police Bureau Commander Adul Saengsingkaew and Lt-Gen Kwanchart Klaharn, Fourth Army Commander and the new director of the Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command (SBPPC).
Lt-Gen Kwanchart asked for some more time to tackle the region's problems since the restructuring of the SBPPC had just been completed.
* More 'smiles' wanted by Muslim leaders (Bangkok Post, July 3)
*Community relations fail – Kowit (Bangkok Post, July 2)