Bangkok – Martial law may end soon in Thailand’s troubled deep South but the army will not be returning to the barracks. Instead, under a restructuring of the security command in the region, the army will have even more authority, with Fourth Army commander, Lieutenant-General Kwanchart Klaharn, being given total command of the Southern Border Provinces Peace Building Command (SBPPBC).
The SBPPC, which brings the various security agencies together, was formed in March last year to supervise all security operations in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. However, rivalry between the police and military had hampered the SBPPC from carrying out its tasks effectively. The deep South continues to be plagued by almost daily violence that has taken 700 lives since January last year.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters on May 25 that the restructuring was aimed at strengthening cooperation among the various security agencies.
"This rotation aims to bring new and fresh people to replace tired and exhausted officials who tended to take a defensive stance. The new officials will take a more aggressive approach, in terms of improving relations with local residents as well as arresting perpetrators and protecting innocent civilians from attack," Mr Thaksin said.
Under the new structure, Lt-Gen Kwanchart would be in full command of all security operations in the Muslim-dominated provinces. The police will also come under direct supervision of the Fourth Army.
"This restructuring backtracks us to square one," a veteran security officer told Bangkok Post.
The officer said there was nothing new to the restructuring, which looked much the same as the old security apparatus when the Fourth Army was in direct charge of the now defunct Civilian-Police-Military 43 command. The latter was once responsible for all security operations in the region.
"The SBPPC has done a lot of security work and pushed for integration of security work among various agencies. We are gradually moving forward and have seen positive developments in the area. This takes much time but it seems the government wants to see an immediate recovery in the situation down here," one veteran southern officer at the SBPPC told the Post.
* Command to foster better cooperation (Bangkok Post, May 26)
* Back to square one on security (Bangkok Post, May 26)
* Swap in south is to relieve fatigue (The Nation, May 26)