Bangkok–In a sign that he is ready to modify his hardline approach to the southern crisis, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has appointed former premier and seasoned diplomat Anand Panyarachun to form a panel to study and recommend strategies to deal with it.
Mr Anand, 72, told reporters on Feb 28 that he and Mr Thaksin agreed on several issues concerning the south and that the differences on other issues were not wide enough to affect their working relationship.
Mr Anand will head a multi-sector 30-member National Reconciliation Commission that is expected to work over the next few weeks to give recommendations for dealing with the spiralling insurgency in the south.
His appointment came after three Privy Councillors - advisers to the Thai King - took the unusual step of urging the government to adopt a pacifist and development-oriented approach in the south.
Some observers say the fierce opposition from almost all quarters to Mr Thaksin's proposal to stop development funds to villages in the south deemed as supportive of militants had prompted the new tactics.
In an editorial, The Nation said: “The Anand committee will be counted on to deliver a sensible, workable road map towards peace that will alleviate the concerns of southern Muslim Thais.”
It cautioned that Mr Anand will not have an easy task since the Thaksin administration and its predecessors had tried to do the same thing in the south.
“The chances for success this time hinge on whether a good working relationship can be established between the Thaksin administration and the Anand committee. The key is for Thaksin to appreciate the fact that even a government that came to power on the back of an unprecedented public mandate must subject itself to checks and balances somehow. “
* Ex-PM Anand to tackle crisis in south (The Straits Times, March 2)
* A fresh push for peace in the South (The Nation, March 2)