Southern groups to be revived
Army hopes to allay residents' concerns by boosting law enforcement and justice
Police stand next to a pile of road spikes thrown by insurgents to slow down pursuing security forces after a police checkpoint in downtown Yala came under brazen gun and bomb attacks yesterday.
Council for National Security (CNS) chairman General Sonthi Boonyaratglin yesterday said the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) and the Civilian-Police-Military Task Force (CPM) 43 will be revived under their old names.
Sonthi said the Army-led multi-agency Southern Border Provinces Peace Building Command would be dissolved and its troops would come under the CPM 43, the leading security wing in the Malay-speaking region.
Prior to the dissolving of the two agencies in mid-2001 by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, CPM 43 was under the directive of the SBPAC.
But Sonthi said yesterday the revived CPM 43 will operate parallel with the SBPAC.
Thaksin had dissolved the agency, along with its security wings, in mid-2001, arguing the situation in the Muslim-majority South had returned to normal.
At the time analysts said the move was a setback because the SBPAC was perhaps the only agency that considered the cultural, political and security needs of the Malay-speaking region.
Army chief-of-staff General Monthri Songkrasap said the revived SBPAC will have an additional function to oversee justice in the region.
One of the biggest complaints from the local communities was that the state law enforcement and legal justice have not adequately served their needs.
The Ministry of Interior had proposed the revived agency be named Southern Border Provinces Development Centre, but Sonthi said it was too long and preferred to use the old name that is familiar with the local people.
Sonthi said on Monday that the revived SBPAC would be tasked with fostering peace, reconciliation and development in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, Satun and four districts of Songkhla.
In a related development, the government will restructure the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) by mandating the Army chief to be the director general. Traditionally, Isoc is headed by the country's prime minister. The move is expected distance the command from future political interference.
Meanwhile, violence erupted yesterday as a group of at least five suspected insurgents launched a series of brazen gun and bomb attacks on a police checkpoint in downtown Yala.
The first attack saw gunmen on the back of a pickup truck spraying police officers with bullets. One officer was killed and another hurt. Two civilians were also injured. Carried out in broad daylight, it was billed as a daring assault by the militants.
The second attack came just 10 minutes later when a bomb went off on Phetkasem Road - a major commercial thoroughfare in down-town Yala. The bomb, believed to have been detonated by a mobile phone, injured four police officers.
Police said the attacks were the work of two separate militant cells, who co-ordinated their assaults.