World Bulletin/News Desk
The Thai government is to distribute military weapons to thousands of village defense volunteers in the troubled south following a string of insurgent attacks in the last four days.
Banphot Poolpian, a spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command - the military organisation in charge of national security - told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday that 2,700 rifles will be acquired by the army and distributed to defense volunteers under an interior ministry program.
The decision was taken Monday at a meeting chaired by deputy-prime minister and defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.
Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr said following the meeting that “more intensive joint operations involving soldiers, police and village defense volunteers,” would be organized.
Military authorities have also decided to reinforce checkpoints at night and to organize intensive hunts for insurgents, according to the Post.
In the past two months, the Thai army has distributed 2600 Heckler&Koch hk 33 branded firearms to villagers in the predominantly non-Muslim areas. Observers have noted that with peace talks being dragged out in the three provinces of Patani, they believe that it will fuel further instability in the region.
The Thai army believe that this policy is one of protector and that unidentified soldiers who are armed and given a special status will be able to provide “security” in these areas. This is seen as a sign of increased attacks and pressure towards the Pattani Muslims.
This step is taken despite the recent announcment that Thailand's military government vowed to bring peace to the Muslim-dominated south within a year, despite stalled peace talks aimed at ending an fighting that has cost thousands of lives in the past decade.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seeks to present an image of greater effectiveness in containing the resistance, based in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces in Thailand's so-called "Deep South".
The provinces were once part of a Malay Muslim sultanate until being annexed by Thailand in 1902.
Successive governments have tried, with little success, to stem the fighting. Responses to the resistance have drawn criticism, including accusations of widespread rights violations against suspected fighters and their supporters.
In August, a 14-year-old Muslim boy was shot dead by an army-trained volunteer unit in Narathiwat. A police investigation found a member of the unit planted a pistol in the boy's hand after the shooting to make him appear to be an insurgent.
"The military needs to wake up to the reality that they have their share of responsibility to improve the situation in southern Thailand," Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
"They must start by disciplining and prosecuting their own troops who violate human rights."Last Mod: 04 Kasım 2014, 17:51