SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: PM’s partial about-turn on South

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Thaksin says he’s open to policy changes in region

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday did a partial U-turn and refused to rule out policy changes in the Muslim-majority South.

His shift in attitude follows a spate of bombings that have rocked the restive region this week and forced security agencies to go back to the drawing board to rethink their strategy.

“If it is for the better, then we will change,” said Thaksin, when asked if the government was prepared to change its policy in the region.

Thaksin did not elaborated as to what changes he would consider or admit that it was Thursday’s bomb attack that nearly claimed the life of Narathiwat Governor Pracha Therat which had led to his change of tone about his policy on the South.

Thaksin has said repeatedly over the past week that the government’s handling of the restive region was “on the right course” and vowed to continue with strict enforcement, in spite of the overwhelming disapproval of the government’s handling of the situation by locals.

His Thai Rak Thai party failed to win a seat in the violence-plagued three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat in Sunday’s general election.

Defence Minister Samphan Boonyanant yesterday said the spate of violence in the region was expected to continue and that worse was yet to come.

Thaksin is scheduled to meet his security chiefs on Monday, before travelling to the southernmost provinces to assess the situation himself.

In an unprecedented move, Pattani Governor Cherdphan Na Songkhla yesterday reached out to MPs from the opposition Democrat Party, which won 10 out of the 11 seats in the three southernmost provinces, urging them

to help the government work towards a peaceful outcome in the region.

Democrat caretaker leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would make a trip to the region to personally thank locals for their votes.

Also, the party plans to formulate a series of recommendations for the government to use in the region to quell the violence and regain the local people’s trust.

Separately, two men on a motorcycle yesterday shot a police officer in Narathiwat’s Sungai Padi sub-district.

Pol Sgt-Major Usman Snamern suffered two bullet wounds, and was taken to hospital. The wounds were not life-threatening.

Published on February 12, 2005

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Tak Bai victims get no cash

Victims of the Tak Bai massacre have called on the government to provide compensation and assistance as promised as many are now disabled following injuries sustained during the brutal incident.

Four months after the incident in October, Mahamah Naso, 26, has a paralysed left arm and right leg due to muscle wastage caused by his injuries.

Mahamah was one of 1,300 protesters who were piled into trucks and inhumanely transported after a protest from Tak Bai to Pattani. At the bottom of a pile of bodies, he was crushed by other protesters for more than six hours. During the transportation, 78 Muslims died of suffocation. “I was unconscious, but when I woke up in a Pattani hospital I was unable to move my arms or legs,” he said.

He was discharged from hospital after six weeks and now faces a life without the use of his legs.

“I have a BA in accounting from Rajabhat Yala University, but it means nothing as I cannot move around easily,” he said sorrowfully. I can do nothing now.”

Mahamah should be the family breadwinner as his elder brother, Abdulrohseh Theemasa, died of suffocation in the truck.

Their mother, Nathakarn Theemasa, said her family had not received the Bt100,000 compensation for the death promised by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Authorities have not said a single word to her about compensation or help for her disabled younger son, she said.

Narathiwat provincial Islamic Committee gave her Bt6,200 to cover funeral expenses for her dead son, but no government agency offered assistance, Nathakarn said.

She submitted the necessary documents to all levels of officials in an effort to obtain help or compensation, but so far she has not received any.

Only two families who lost kin in the Tak Bai protest have received the Bt100,000 compensation, said Duramae Theemasa, village head of Ban Hua Klong in Tak Bai and father of Mahamah and Abdulrohseh.

The Thai Rak Thai Party suffered big losses in Sunday’s general election as the vast majority of people in the predominantly Muslim region voted against the government.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation

Tak Bai

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Democrats to plan ways to end fighting

Just one day after taking the reins of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday showed his leadership qualities by announcing that he would go to the deep South, listen to the opinions of the local people and propose to the government a means to end the violence there.

The Democrats’ absolute victory over Thai Rak Thai in the region was unprecedented, he said, thanking the locals for their faith and trust in his party.

Abhisit called a meeting of Democrat who won seats in Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Satun, along with the party’s deputy secretary-general, Niphon Bunyamani, to discuss ways to put an end to the violence in the southernmost provinces.

After the Election Commission endorses the House membership of the southern MPs, he would lead them to the South to meet the people, he said. Then he will write what he called “the Pattani statement”, including proposed measures and policies he would recommend to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit said the Democrats regarded the problems in the deep South as matters of first priority.

He called on Thaksin to be open-minded.

“We have no right to force the prime minister to believe us, but we ask that he listen,” he said.

Niphon said Thaksin had sent out the wrong signals over the past four days by saying that local MPs – in ignoring the violence in the South – had led the government to fail in its attempt to solve the problem.

Niphon said it was the government’s authoritarian policies and human rights violations that had brought about the failure.

“The abduction and murder of suspects and arrest without evidence or respect for the rule of law brought failure to the government,” he added.

He called on Thaksin to review his CEO-governor policy and re-establish the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre to solve the problems in the deep South.

Yossawadee Hongthong

The Nation

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